The upcoming talks between the US and China on security and economic affairs could be overshadowed by an imminent international ruling on territorial claims in the South China Sea, mainland analysts say.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, along with Treasury chief Jack Lew and other top officials, are due to meet Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Vice-Premier Wang Yang in Beijing in early June for the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, Washington announced on Wednesday.
A wide range of bilateral, regional, and global issues of immediate and long-term economic and strategic interest would be discussed, said the statement, which did not provide further details.
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But Chinese analysts say the dialogue is likely to be overshadowed by the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. The Philippines wants the court to declare that China’s claims must comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The ruling, which could come next month or in June, is widely expected to go against China. Beijing has stated the court does not have jurisdiction over the case and the dispute should be settled bilaterally.
The talks in Beijing would have “great significance” as they came at a time when the South China Sea was the prominent issue in Sino-US ties, said Jia Qingguo, associate dean at the School of International Studies at Peking University.
His view is shared by Shi Yinhong, director of the Centre for American Studies at Renmin University of China, who expected representatives on both sides to restate their positions on the regional dispute, but not reach any consensus.
The ruling, if announced by that time, is likely to intensify the [Sino-US] confrontation
Shi Yinhong, American studies expert
“The ruling, if announced by that time, is likely to intensify the confrontation” between the two countries, Shi said.
Also likely high on the agenda would by the US-China Bilateral Investment Treaty, they said. Formal talks on the pact began in 2013, but with US President Barack Obama nearing the end of his term, little immediate progress was expected on the issue, Shi said.
Both Jia and Shi said the meeting would continue to serve as a platform for China and the US to manage their differences. “But we should lower our expectations because there is a big question about whether Obama will be able to implement any of the agreements” before his term ends, Jia said.
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The US State Department also announced on Wednesday that Kerry would join Chinese Vice-Premier Liu Yandong for the seventh annual US-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange.
The forum puts government and private-sector representatives together for talks on education, culture, health, science and technology, sports, and women’s issues, among others.