Hanoi: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joins an Asia-Pacific summit Saturday after a flare-up in Chinese anger at Japan over disputed islands that cast doubt over prospects for reconciliation between the two Asian powers.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry official accused Japan of damaging the atmosphere between the two countries Friday after Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara raised the issue of the Senkaku islands, called the Diaoyus in Chinese, at the summit. Both China and Japan claim sovereignty over the isles.
Relations between China and Japan deteriorated last month with the detention of a Chinese fishing boat captain by the Japanese coast guard after their boats collided near the islands.
The two sides had taken steps to mend ties and speculation swirled over whether Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan would hold fence-mending bilateral talks on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific summit in Hanoi.
But Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue said a bilateral meeting was not possible, and he blamed Japan.
The renewed row will have hit close to home for several of the leaders meeting in Hanoi at an Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit with its dialogue partners.
Four ASEAN members -- Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam -- have long-running disagreements with Beijing over parts of the South China Sea, and have expressed concern over China's growing assertiveness over its claims.
In July, China reacted with vitriol when nearly half of the participants at a regional security meeting of foreign ministers under the ASEAN banner, including Clinton, raised concerns about maritime security and the South China Sea.
The issue could come up again Saturday.
There has also been worry about Chinese restrictions on the export of rare earth minerals, vital for making high-tech goods and over which China has a near-monopoly on global production.
China has given an assurance it wanted to continue providing the minerals, and to do so in a sustainable way that would not violate World Trade Organization rules, a Japanese official said.
Clinton may hear some complaints from ASEAN countries on Saturday over the sinking value of the US dollar, which has led to a sharp appreciation in the value of most of the region's currencies.
"There is definitely a concern about currencies for most member countries in the region because it will affect exports and tourism," Alongkorn Ponlaboot, Thailand's deputy minister of commerce, told reporters Friday.
"It's a good opportunity to hear the views from the U.S., exchange ideas and express our concerns about and attempts to competitively devalue," he said.
Upcoming elections in Myanmar could figure in Saturday's talks, as well, although ASEAN is unlikely to stray far from previous pleas to the military rulers of that country to make the poll free, fair and inclusive.
Critics say the November 7 election is designed to enshrine military rule and will be a sham as long as more than 2,000 political prisoners, including democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, remain in detention.
First Published: Saturday, October 30, 2010, 10:20