Bi-Annual U.S.-China Talks Likely to be Overshadowed by South China Sea Ruling

One of the most crucial meetings in international relations will take place this June: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, along with U.S. Treasury Chief Jack Lew, and other top officials will meet with State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Vice-Premier Wang Yang in Beijing for the Sino-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SED).

The SED, which occurs twice a year, is a framework for the highest members of the governments of the People’s Republic of China and the United States to assemble to mutually discuss topics of economic relations between the two countries.

However, this significant event will likely be overcast by the fast approaching ruling on international claims to the highly disputed South China Sea, which has created immense tension in the area, mainland analysts say. The Permanent Court of Arbitration will occur at the Hague next month or in June.

One of the countries at the heart of the rising conflict in the South China Sea is the Philippines. The archipelago nation took legal action against China, hoping that the court will declare that China must adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

While Beijing insists the court has no jurisdiction and the feud should be settled bilaterally, the ruling is expected to go against China.

Associate Dean at Peking University’s School of International Relations, Jia Qingguo, said that at a time when the South China Sea issue has been featured in China-U.S. ties, the SED talks in Beijing would have “great significance”.

Sharing Mr. Jia’s perspective is Shi Yinhong, director of Renmin University’s Center for American Studies. Mr. Shiexpected both sides to restate their positions on the ­regional dispute but not reach any consensus. ‘The ruling, if announced by that time, is likely to intensify the confrontation [between the two states],’” South China Morning Post reports.

Another topic on the agenda for the the dialogue will also likely to include the U.S.-China Bilateral Investment Treaty. However, Mr. Shi does not expect much progress to be made on this front, as Barack Obama is nearing the end of his presidency.

Both analysts agree that these essential talks will continue to serve as a platform for the two leaders in international economics to manage their differences.

“But we should lower our expectations because there is a big question about whether Obama will be able to implement any of the agreements,” Jia said

The U.S. Department of State announced that John Kerry would also meet with Vice-Premier Liu Yandong.

The South China Sea Post writes that Zhao Kejin, deputy director of Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy, said “North Korea and the US-led Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact would also be discussed.”

“Even though it would be the Obama administration’s last SED, we should not underestimate it. Obama will be keen to [achieve] some milestone results … Whether there will be concrete results depends on … both sides,” Mr. Zhao said.

However important all of these highly relevant discussions at the SED will be, they are sure to be dimmed by the upcoming South China Sea ruling.