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Hillary Clinton Makes Likely Last Trip to China as Secretary of State

SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages(BEIJING) -- In what she described as very likely her last trip to China as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton met with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing Wednesday to mend fences in a somewhat battered U.S.-China relationship.

In the past year, the two countries have engaged in tense diplomatic negotiations over blind dissidents, trade regulations, disputed territories and human rights abuse.

Widely criticized in state-run media in the lead up to the visit, Clinton nonetheless described relations as being “on a strong and solid base.”  The two countries, she said, “literally consult almost on a daily basis.”

Among the talking points for Clinton’s visit is the issue of China’s territorial disputes with its Asian neighbors.  Recent tension over small but potentially energy-rich islands in the South China Sea has pitted China against ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The U.S. is pressing for China to resolve its issues multi-laterally. China is insisting on working bi-laterally. The general consensus is that bi-lateral negotiations give China the upper hand. Some say that could come back to haunt China, as the smaller Asian countries involved gravitate toward the U.S. for support.

Clinton clearly stated that the “U.S. does not take a position on territorial claims.”  However, she added that the U.S. has an interest in the “freedom of navigation and…we do believe it is everyone’s interest that [China and ASEAN] work together towards a shared goal on a code of conduct.”

Despite the Global Times headline, “Hillary, a Figure Who Deeply Exacerbates U.S.-China Mutual Distrust,” Clinton’s take would be quite the opposite.  She said that the two countries have been able to “explore areas of agreement and disagreement in a very open manner.”   

Clinton had been scheduled to meet with Hu’s likely successor, Xi Jingping.  At the last minute, the meeting was cancelled.  No official reason was given for the change in plans.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Xi is suffering from a bad back. He cancelled meetings with other high level officials from Singapore and Russia. Xi did send Clinton his wishes for a “productive meeting” via his foreign minister.

Clinton will continue her tour through Asia for the rest of the week.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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