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Human rights disagreements cloud opening of U.S.-China dialogue

By Jill Dougherty, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent
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  • Remarks by Clinton, Biden reflect tougher administration line on human rights
  • However, both urge more cooperation with China
  • Chinese counselor says China has made "enormous progress" including "on human rights"
  • Remarks came at the opening of the third U.S./China Strategic and Economic Dialogue

Washington (CNN) -- While urging more cooperation with China, senior U.S. officials Monday repeatedly stressed differences over human rights, reflecting a harder line from the Obama administration on a major disagreement between the two economic powers.

In opening remarks at the third U.S./China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "We worry about the impact on our domestic politics and on the politics and stability in China and the region. We see reports of people, including public interest lawyers, writers, artists and others who are detained or disappeared."

Vice President Joe Biden also addressed the opening, noting that "We have vigorous disagreements over human rights," adding, "I recognize that some in China see our advocacy in human rights as an intrusion and, Lord only knows, what else. But President Obama and I believe strongly, as does the secretary, that protecting fundamental rights and freedom such as those enshrined in China's international commitments as well as in China's own constitution is the best way to promote long-term stability and prosperity."

Chinese State Counselor Dai Bingguo, however, countered, noting the "enormous progress" China has made, "including on human rights."

Clinton called for continued economic cooperation with China, saying "fears and misperceptions linger on both sides of the Pacific."

"I will be very open about that," Clinton said. "Some in our country see China's progress as a threat to the United States; some in China worry that America seeks to constrain China's growth. We reject both of those views. We both have much more to gain from cooperation than from conflict. The fact is that a thriving United States is good for China and a thriving China is good for America."

U.S., China talks focus on economy
  • China
  • United States

On military issues, Clinton said that to work together both countries must be able to "understand each other's intentions and interests," adding "we must demystify long-term plans and aspirations." For the first time, Clinton said, senior military officials from both sides are participating in the Dialogue to discuss how to reduce what Clinton called the "dangerous risks of misunderstanding and miscalculations."

Clinton also praised U.S.-China cooperation on sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program and on North Korea.

"We continue to urge North Korea to take concrete actions to improve relations with South Korea and to refrain from further provocations... And we want to see North Korea take irreversible steps to fulfill its international obligations towards denuclearization."