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xi-jinpingBEIJING: China's likely next president Xi Jinping has cancelled a meeting with the visiting US Secretary of State, a US official said Wednesday, amid friction between the two global powers.

 

Hillary Clinton had been due to meet Vice President Xi later Wednesday during a brief visit to Beijing that looks set to be dominated by a series of territorial disputes between China and its neighbours, notably in the South China Sea.

 

"We were informed after 11:00 pm last night by the Chinese side that for unexpected scheduling reasons, the meeting between Vice President Xi and Secretary Clinton is not going to happen today," said the official, who requested anonymity.

 

"We understand from the Chinese side that Vice President Xi's meetings with the prime minister of Singapore and a Russian official have also been cancelled today."

 

Clinton nevertheless met with the rest of the top Chinese leadership including President Hu Jintao.

 

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, asked at a joint news conference with Clinton about Xi's cancellation, said: "I hope people will not have unnecessary speculation."

 

China has in the past called off meetings at the last minute to show displeasure, although Xi has generally made US-friendly statements and sought warm relations during a trip across the United States earlier this year.

 

Clinton has voiced hope that China, which claims virtually all of the South China Sea, will agree to work out a code of conduct on regional territorial disputes, and has encouraged Southeast Asian nations to stand united.

 

But Beijing has repeatedly expressed concern over what it sees as interference by Washington in the region.

 

Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said ahead of Clinton's arrival Tuesday that China hoped the United States would "do more to promote regional peace and stability, instead of the opposite."

 

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012

 

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