Vice President Biden Embarks on Mission to China, Mongolia and Japan

Aug 15, 2011 6:00pm

ABC News' Devin Dwyer (@devindwyer) reports:  Vice President Joe Biden embarks Tuesday on a week-long trip to East Asia, where he’ll spend more than half his time developing a rapport with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jingping.  

The visit, billed by officials as a chance to “get to know China’s future leadership,” signals a new stage in the Obama administration’s effort to expand U.S. influence in the region and build on progress made during Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state visit in January.

“Simply put, we’re investing in the future of the U.S.-China relationship,” said Biden national security advisor Antony Blinken on a conference call with reporters today.   

Biden’s four days of meetings and photo-ops in the Chinese capitol Beijing, and a first-ever visit by a U.S. official to Chengdu, will likely be overshadowed by the U.S.-China relationship of a financial sort. 

China, the largest foreign holder of American debt, recently lashed out at the U.S. “addiction to debts” following S&P’s downgrade of the nation’s credit score, and exhorted American leaders to “address [the country’s] structural debt problems.” 

“The Vice President will be in a good position to talk about the very strong deficit reduction package that we concluded here recently,” said Treasury Department Undersecretary Lael Brainard of the bipartisan agreement to curb spending by $900 billion over the next decade, with an additional $1.5 trillion in cuts expected later this year. 

“Obviously, the U.S. has the capacity, the will, and the commitment to tackle our major fiscal and economic challenges,” she added.   

Officials say Biden will also push the Chinese to address “challenges” of their own, including the need for greater protection of intellectual property rights and ending Chinese currency manipulation — both which have reportedly hampered American firms.  

“We’re going to keep pushing on that front,” Brainard said. “The exchange rate remains substantially undervalued, but we have seen some important progress there to date.”  

Administration officials said they expected the vice presidents to discuss regional security issues, including North Korea and Iran’s nuclear weapons programs, the status of Taiwan and Tibet and human rights. 

Biden will “reinforce the message that there is great value in their renewing their dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama, with the goal of peacefully resolving differences,” said national security aide Daniel Russel. “We will raise our concerns about the human rights situation throughout China,” directly and privately, he added. 

Biden will spend one day in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, which the administration has praised for taking an “activist approach to strengthening democratic principles” in the region. Mongolia has also contributed troops to the international coalitions fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Vice President will spend the last two days of his trip visiting the close U.S. ally of Japan, where he is expected to meet with Prime Minister Kan and tour the northeastern city of Sendai, which was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami earlier this year.  

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