BEIJING, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Vice President Joe Biden, speaking in Beijing before flying to Seoul on an Asian trip, expressed U.S. concerns about China's newly established air defense zone.
Addressing a breakfast meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing and the U.S.-China Business Council Thursday, Biden, whose main agenda for his visit was to bring up U.S. objections to the creation of the Chinese air defense zone covering the East China Sea, said Beijing's action has caused "significant apprehension in the region."
He told his audience he took up the issue the previous day in 5 1/2 hours of talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, saying he was "very direct about our firm position and our expectations."
In the context of the region, Biden said Asia-Pacific will be the global economic driver in coming years and as China's economy grows, its stake in regional peace and stability also will grow.
"That's why China will bear increasing responsibility to contribute positively to peace and security," Biden said. "That means taking steps to reduce the risk of accidental conflict and miscalculation, and reaffirming -- reaffirming that we want to have better predictability and refraining from taking steps that will increase tension. And it means pursuing -- this means pursuing crisis management mechanisms and effective channels for communications with its neighbors."
Biden also said the United States has a profound stake in the region, adding, "We are, and will remain a Pacific power diplomatically, economically, and militarily. That's just a statement of fact."
In three meetings with Xi Wednesday, Biden explained the United States does not recognize the Chinese air defense zone.
Xi, according to a senior U.S. official, was "equally clear" in explaining the Chinese point of view both about the zone and the territorial disputes concerning a group of islands also claimed by Japan.
A senior administration official, speaking on background, said the two leaders "spent a substantial amount of time on North Korea, and they reviewed the internal situation in North Korea in light of some new reports in recent days. Biden and Xi also talked about Iran and how successful negotiations on Iran's nuclear program in Geneva, Switzerland, could impact international pressure on North Korea to produce concrete results.
"So there was quite a bit of discussion about the work that our respective teams have been doing to think about how to create the conditions for negotiations that could actually be fruitful and not just a repeat of the same old North Korean game," said the U.S. official in a readout of a briefing released by the White House.
Separately Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said his government had urged the United States to respect the air defense zone "with an objective and fair attitude," the official Xinhua News Agency said. He said in the talks with Biden, the Chinese side stressed the establishment of zone is in line with international law and practice.
In his Thursday speech to the business leaders, Biden said he and Xi also spent "a good deal of our time" discussing China's recently concluded third plenum when the country's new leaders stressed the decisive role of the market in moving the economy forward.
"But, in fact, many of the reforms China's leaders are proposing actually match the priorities we have raised with China over the years," Biden said. They include leveling the playing field for private and foreign-owned companies and protecting intellectual property and trade secrets.
He said he had no doubt Xi and his advisers are committed to making the third plenum a reality although the task will require "substantial commitment and follow through." He said the more China delivers on its proposed reforms "the stronger our bilateral trade and investment relationship will be."
He said both countries have an opportunity to improve intellectual property protection, resolve outstanding trade disputes and significantly expand cooperation on energy and climate change.
Biden, who came to China after visiting Japan, traveled to Osan Air Base South Korea on the third and final leg of his Asia trip. Biden will meet with South Korean President Park Guen-hye, Prime Minister Chung Hong-won and visit the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas.