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Obama speaks of cooperation with China

In a speech in Tokyo, President Obama addresses issues such as human rights and openness, but makes it clear that the U.S. does not see China as a strategic threat whose rise must be checked.

November 13, 2009|By Peter Nicholas

Reporting from Tokyo — Rolling out his approach toward Asia, President Obama emphasized that he wants a cooperative relationship with China in which the two nations act as responsible global powers coping with climate change, nuclear proliferation and economic instability.

Obama said today that the U.S. has no wish to "contain" China, a strategy from the Cold War era when the United States worked to block the spread of communism.

"I know there are many who question how the United States perceives China's emergence," Obama said. "But, as I have said, in an interconnected world, power does not need to be a zero-sum game, and nations need not fear the success of another. Cultivating spheres of cooperation -- not competing spheres of influence -- will lead to progress in the Asia Pacific."

Obama's half-hour speech at a concert hall was warmly received by a Japanese audience of about 1,500. His talk was interrupted by applause more than a dozen times, and he got a standing ovation at the end.

Obama is on the second day of a weeklong trip to Asia. He will spend more than two days in China, where he will meet with the country's leaders and tour the Forbidden City and the Great Wall.

In his speech, Obama sought to navigate difficult issues that China presents. He made the case for China to respect human rights and embrace a more open society. At the same time, he made it clear that the U.S. does not see China as a strategic threat whose rise must be checked.

"So the United States does not seek to contain China, nor does a deeper relationship with China mean a weakening of our bilateral alliances," the president said. "On the contrary, the rise of a strong, prosperous China can be a source of strength for the community of nations."

Obama offered an implicit rebuke to China's authoritarian government -- its censorship of the Internet and preference for one-party rule. A universal human desire, he said, is "the freedom to speak your mind and choose your leaders; the ability to access information and worship how you please."

As the Obama administration sees it, China is indispensable to achieving crucial goals. The U.S. wants China's help in persuading North Korea and Iran to forswear nuclear weapons, in stabilizing Afghanistan and in setting conditions for a more "balanced" world economy.

The president hopes to create more American jobs by coaxing China and other Asian nations to boost spending and expand imports. That's a theme he also will express in stops in Singapore and South Korea.

He also sought to remind an American audience listening back home that they have a stake in Asia's success.

"So I want everyone to know, and I want everyone in America to know, that we have a stake in the future of this region, because what happens here has a direct effect on our lives at home.

"This is where we engage in much of our commerce and buy many of our goods. And this is where we can export more of our own products and create jobs back home in the process."

peter.nicholas@latimes.com

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