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China's Xi Offers to Reduce Friction Over Hotspots

By Charles Hutzler

BOAO, China -- With pressure growing on Beijing to get North Korea to step back from its war-like footing, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Sunday that no one country should be allowed to upset world peace and added China would work to reduce tensions over regional hotspots.

In a speech to a regional business forum with political leaders from Australia to Zaire present, Xi did not offer any concrete plans for how to deal with China's neighbor, North Korea, which has elevated regional tensions through warlike rhetoric and missile deployments in recent weeks. Nor did Xi offer concessions to other neighbors locked in fraught disputes with Beijing over outlying islands: Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.

It isn't clear whether Xi was taking a swipe at North Korea or at the United States, a frequent target of Chinese criticism, when he criticized unilateral acts that threaten stability.

"The international community should advocate the vision of comprehensive security and cooperative security, so as to turn the global village into a big stage for common development rather than an arena where gladiators fight each other. And no one should be allowed to throw the region, or even the whole world, into chaos for selfish gains," Xi said at the Boao Forum for Asia, a China-sponsored talk shop for the global elite.

Ambiguity aside, Xi's speech stands in contrast to more strident remarks he has made in recent months and marks an effort to strike an active, cooperative posture to calm regional tensions. This year's Boao meeting -- an annual event billed as Asia's version of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland -- is being watched for signs of whether Xi, installed in power five months ago, is ready to stake out new directions in a foreign policy that has been bullying toward some neighbors and passive on many international security issues.

The new Xi government is being especially challenged over North Korea. Pyongyang's ratcheting up of tensions in recent months -- from tests of a long-range missile and a nuclear device to threats of nuclear strikes -- have concerned South Korea and the United States, important economic partners for China which have looked to Beijing to rein in its longtime, if estranged communist ally.

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