President Hu Jintao has pledged to join the US in negotiations over a new package of sanctions against Iran. Speaking at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC, White House national security aide Jeffrey Bader said, “they’re prepared to work with us,” heralding the talks as “another sign of international unity on this issue”.
The summit features representatives from 47 countries, all attending to discuss nuclear proliferation and related terrorism issues. China, who depends on Iran for 11% of its energy needs, has been hesitant in joining Western nations in putting together a set of sanctions against Tehran.
But, according to a Chinese statement issued today, “China and the United States share the same overall goal on the Iranian nuclear issue.” Chinese spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said he hoped for greater global diplomacy in dealing with it. “China always believes that dialogue and negotiation are the best way out for the issue. Pressure and sanctions cannot fundamentally solve it,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu added.
However, Iran seemed indifferent about today’s events. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said that President Hu’s pledge did not mean Beijing was ready to support sanctions. He summarised, Tehran does not “consider the statement as approval of the U.S. stance and unfair actions.”
The reportedly “upbeat” negotiations may well be telling of the icy Sino-US ties getting a touch warmer. However, it will be some time before breakthroughs occur, not least since President Hu made no specific commitment regarding tough sanctions. Why? China would, as China Hearsay’s Stan Abrams says, take a tough hit in agreeing to sanctions, purely because of the aforementioned importance of Iran in terms of China’s energy needs.
Still, Obama may be able to sleep a little easier this evening in the belief that China might just be on a path to being a more “responsible” global player. The path is a long one, but small steps can never hurt.