BEIJING — President Obama arrived in Beijing on Monday for a week-long trip to three countries — China, Burma and Australia — for summits with other world leaders.
The president’s focus turns to foreign policy after last week’s drubbing of Democrats in the midterm elections and just after North Korea’s surprise release of two Americans on Saturday.
Obama starts the week with the annual meeting of APEC, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, in Beijing.
Obama also holds separate meetings Monday with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
“Most Asian countries still worry about China’s expansion and increased influence,” said Sun Zhe, director of the Center for Sino-U.S. Relations at Qinghua University in Beijing. “They still have doubts whether China is taking over their market or their islands.”
If South Korean officials shared that apprehension they were able to set it aside Monday, as South Korea’s presidential office announced a free trade deal with China to remove tariffs on more than 90% of goods over 20 years.
The announcement came after South Korean President Park Geun-hye met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at APEC, apparently completing negotiations that began in May 2012.
Xi is also holding a meeting at APEC with Japanese President Shizu Abe Monday, after two years of tension between the two nations created by a dispute over uninhabited East China Sea islands.
Obama will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday. The two leaders are likely to tackle such tough issues as human rights, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, climate change and the continuing island territorial disputes between China and Japan.
Obama then heads to Burma, also known as Myanmar, for the East Asia Summit. At the end of the week, he goes to Brisbane, Australia, for the G-20 economic summit of world leaders.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is also attending the APEC and G-20 summits, but no direct meetings are scheduled with Obama.
Gen (retd) V K Singh is the new MoS (Independent Charge) of Statistics and Programme Implementation, held by Rao Inderjit Singh. V K Singh will also continue to hold the charges of MoS External Affairs and MoS Overseas Indian Affairs.
An IIT graduate, 58-year-old Parrikar shares an excellent rapport with Modi and has a reputation for probity and administrative skills.
Building on that success, Doval and Rice discussed “regional developments, including cooperating on maritime security” and “stability in Afghanistan”, according to the White House.
The issue figured for the first time in an Indian-Us joint statement: “The leaders expressed concern about rising tensions over maritime territorial disputes, and affirmed the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea.”
China wasn’t named, but every part of the above statement pointed to Beijing, and its spiking belligerence including efforts to enforce an Air Defence Identification Zone. India and the US also plan to police sea lanes through that region, as others near about, with, experts said, serious implications for relations with China.
With Kerry, Doval discussed “defence cooperation, international terrorism and terrorism finance, and law enforcement cooperation,” said the state department.
The two countries were still not willing to discuss their expanded counter-terrorism cooperations that made headlines in India, with D-Company put in the same category as LeT.
The India-US joint statement puts Dawood’s gang holed up in Karachi since carrying out the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts at the forefront of the CT kill-list of the two countries.
China is gathering support for the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a home-grown, $50bn (£31.5bn) alternative to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Many neighbouring countries, including India, have thrown their weight behind the project. American officials have fought back, raising concerns that the institution would be redundant and alarmingly opaque.