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Clinton: Chinese human rights can't interfere with other crises

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  • Meetings are climax of Clinton's Asian tour, first foreign visit as Secretary of State
  • Issues discussed included economic crisis, regional security, environment
  • U.S., China are the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases
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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton broached the issue of human rights with Chinese leaders on Saturday, but emphasized that the global financial slump and other international crises were more pressing and immediate priorities.

U.S. Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton meets Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in Beijing.

U.S. Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton meets Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in Beijing.

The United States will continue to press China on issues such as Tibet, Taiwan and human rights, she told reporters accompanying her.

"Successive administrations and Chinese governments have been poised back and forth on these issues, and we have to continue to press them. But our pressing on those issues can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis, and the security crisis," she told reporters in Seoul, South Korea.

Clinton made China the last and most crucial stopover in her Asia trip, signaling the new administration's first attempts to lay a foundation toward a China policy. It is Clinton's first trip to China as secretary of state. Video Watch Clinton talk to CNN about Asian tour »

She met with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Saturday and discussed the framework for further high-level and mid-level discussions.

"It is essential that the United States and China have a positive, cooperative relationship," Clinton told a group of reporters.

Earlier Saturday, Clinton met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing, where they discussed what they regard as the new defining Sino-U.S. strategic goals: the world economic crisis, regional security and the environment. Video Watch report on the talks »

The United States and China are the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

Human rights, a traditional topic in discussions between the two countries, was broached during Saturday's meeting between Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who agreed to engage in a continuous discussion on the issue.

Secretary Clinton said both nations will continue to hold frank discussions on crucial human rights issues, such as Tibet and freedom of expression in China. In the past, Clinton has been an outspoken, staunch critic of China's human rights stance.

In a welcoming response, Yang said China was willing to discuss the often-contentious subject of human rights.

"Although differences exist, China is willing to conduct the dialogues with the U.S. to push forward the human rights situation on the premise of mutual respect and noninterference in each other's internal affairs," Yang was quoted by China's state-run Xinhua news agency as saying.

On the economic front, both leaders emphasized the importance of working in cooperation since their economies are intertwined.

China, the world's top holder of U.S. debt, wants to ensure liquidity and security in its dealings with U.S. treasury bonds.

"We did use foreign exchange reserves to buy U.S. treasury bonds. Our principle of using reserves is to ensure security and liquidity," Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told reporters.

China-U.S. trade volume rose by 10.5 percent in 2008 to 333.7 billion U.S. dollars, Xinhua reported.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, China is North Korea's largest trade partner. It has taken a leadership position in the six-party talks, a multinational diplomatic effort to denuclearize North Korea.

In Seoul, Clinton did not refrain from harsh words, restating the U.S. position on North Korea.

"North Korea is not going to get a different relationship with the U.S. while insulting and refusing dialogue with the Republic of Korea," she said.

Mid-level military discussions will resume this month, Clinton announced Saturday. Last October, the Bush administration notified Congress of its plan to sell $6.5 billion in arms to Taiwan -- a move that caused China to suspend military talks with the U.S.

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Clinton told CNN's Senior Correspondent Jill Dougherty that U.S. policy toward Taiwan will not change.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and U.S. President Barack Obama are scheduled to meet at the G20 meeting in London in April.

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