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Clinton tours Shanghai Expo ahead of Beijing talks

Clinton appeared relaxed as she visited China's much-touted Expo before discussions in Beijing that are expected to be dominated by the row. - AFP

Sat, May 22, 2010

SHANGHAI - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton toured the World Expo in Shanghai on Saturday ahead of talks likely to focus on the sinking of a South Korean warship, blamed on North Korea.

Clinton appeared relaxed as she visited China's much-touted Expo before discussions in Beijing that are expected to be dominated by the row.

A multinational panel on Thursday concluded that a North Korean submarine torpedoed the South Korean corvette Cheonan in March, killing 46 sailors.

A senior US official travelling with Clinton told reporters in Shanghai that she would "try to make a powerful case about why this is an extraordinarily serious matter and why we want the strong cooperation from China."

"We'd like to see them acknowledge the reality of what happened and then join with South Korea, Japan and us in helping to fashion a response that helps to change North Korean behaviour," the official, who asked not to be named, said late Friday.

Pyongyang quickly rejected the investigators' findings and launched threats of war if it is punished by the international community.

China -- Pyongyang's sole major ally -- called for restraint and said it would make its own assessment of the investigators' report.

Beijing's support is seen as key for any international action targeting the North. It is one of five veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council.

But such matters were on hold until the Beijing portion of her trip as Clinton arrived Saturday in light rain at the US pavilion -- one of the most visited at the Shanghai Expo - where around 500 Chinese greeted her with cheers.

"Without her, there would be no USA pavilion," a moderator boomed over loudspeakers as images of Shanghai and the United States were projected on giant video screens.

Clinton has been credited with raising much of the 61-million-dollar operating budget for the pavilion that was built after numerous delays due to a US law prohibiting Expo pavilions from being funded by the taxpayer.

After viewing films at the venue, Clinton had her photo taken with a group of Chinese children chatting in English.

"I'm jealous and very impressed with your English. I can only speak one language," she said.

She will have dinner with State Councillor Dai Bingguo, China's top foreign affairs policymaker, after her arrival in Beijing Sunday.

Clinton and US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will lead a US delegation in two days of talks on Monday and Tuesday with Chinese leaders on issues including North Korea, trade disputes, the value of the yuan and the international standoff on Iran.

"Few global problems can be solved by the US or China alone, and few can be solved without the US and China together," Clinton said in a commentary published Friday in China's state-run Global Times ahead of her arrival.

Washington and Beijing have gone through a rocky patch since the start of 2010, with the two sides at odds over US arms sales to Taiwan, Obama's White House meeting with the Dalai Lama, the value of the Chinese currency, the yuan, and Internet freedom.

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