Senior diplomat William Burns in China amid tension over Beijing’s military development, island disputes

China's Vice President Li Yuanchao, right, talks with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, left, during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, Jan. 22, 2014. AP

BEIJING -- Visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met Thursday with senior Chinese officials amid mounting tension between Beijing and Washington over China’s increasingly public displays of military might in the region.

As Burns arrived in Beijing earlier this week, China’s army showed off the first-ever images of its advanced Dongfeng-31 intercontinental ballistic missile being tested.

In a photo released by China's People's Liberation Army, a Dongfeng-31 international ballistic missile is test launched
In a photo released by China's People's Liberation Army, a Dongfeng-31 intercontinental ballistic missile is test launched.
Handout

Published Tuesday on a website affiliated with People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the photos show soldiers preparing and test launching the missiles, which put China’s nuclear warheads in range of the U.S. West Coast and most European capitals.

"Seeing this photo, Americans will of course take it as a sign of more remarkable military threat," Shi Yinhong, a professor of International Relations and director of the Centre on American Studies at China’s Renmin University told CBS News. "But China is determined and will continue its military buildup despite the fact that America is discontent."

In a photo released by China's People's Liberation Army, soldiers prepare a mobile launch vehicle to test fire a Dongfeng-31 international ballistic missile
In a photo released by China's People's Liberation Army, soldiers prepare a mobile launch vehicle to test fire a Dongfeng-31 intercontinental ballistic missile.
Handout

Burns met Thursday with senior Chinese officials, including Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui and Vice President Li Yuanchao. Li urged the two countries to expand pragmatic cooperation and to carefully manage differences and “sensitive” issues, according to China’s state news agency Xinhua. "China and the U.S. are making great progress in certain areas of their relationship, such as the economy and certain international issues: Syria, Iran and North Korea," notes Shi, "but the U.S. is increasingly worried over China's military development."

Burns also urged China to "work constructively with its neighbors to reduce tensions in the East China Sea and the South China Sea," according to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

 China is locked in territorial disputes with Japan and other Asian neighbors over tiny islands with strategic value in the region.

The embassy said Burns had "reiterated long-standing U.S. interests in all parties managing the situation diplomatically."

According to Shi, Burns' visit was a good opportunity for both parties to explain their positions to each other and try to clear up misunderstandings, but he didn’t expect significant progress from the meetings. "When it comes to fundamental national interest, no substantial comprise will be made by either side in the coming years," he told CBS News.

Burns arrived in Beijing on Tuesday on the second leg of his visit to Asia, after first visiting South Korea. He was to travel to Japan later on Thursday.

Filed by Shuai Zhang, in the CBS News Beijing bureau.


Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.