China will not buckle on national interests: premier

UNITED NATIONS, September 23, 2010 (AFP) - China's Premier Wen Jiabao vowed before the United Nations on Thursday that his country would not threaten another nation but would not yield in disputes over its national interests.

With China's rising military might worrying many nations, Wen said: "China values friendship and also sticks to its principles.

"It firmly upholds its national core interests. When it comes to sovereignty, national unity and territorial integrity, China will not yield or compromise."

But Wen insisted that China would not seek hostilities.

"The world of the 21st century is far from tranquil, but gone are the days when problems were ultimately settled by war," he said in a speech to the UN General Assembly which he said aimed to explain "the real China."

"China will stay firmly committed to peaceful development," he said.

"China's development will not harm anyone nor pose a threat to anyone. There were powers who sought hegemony once they grew strong. China will never follow in their footsteps."

Wen made no mention of tensions in Asia, including a dispute between China and Japan over the detention of a Chinese trawler skipper near East China Sea islands claimed by both nations.

China has rejected Japanese overtures for talks on the topic, according to Japanese officials, and while in New York has threatened "further actions" if the skipper is not released.

There is also growing concern in Asia over China's increased assertiveness in claiming maritime territories, including in the South China Sea, where it has competing claims with Vietnam and other countries.

The islands at the centre of the territorial battle with Japan are a major nationalist issue in both countries but could also give access to key natural resources, which Wen admitted to the General Assembly is a key concern for China.

He said China was proud of its massive economic boom of the past three decades and will plough ahead with its economic development but that its political and social system still needs reforms.

When added that much more economic progress was needed and "China will be even more open to the world" in the years to come.

"Mutually-beneficial cooperation for win-win progress is a long term strategy that we will stick to in opening up to the world."

The premier said: "We are committed to promoting the establishment of a fair, equitable, inclusive and well-managed new international financial order and an open and free international trading regime."

The speech came after a meeting with US President Barack Obama who told him Beijing must do more to solve rising tensions over the value of China's yuan currency, a senior US official said.

The US president told Wen that the current trade and currency dispute with China was "the most important issue we are going to talk about today," Jeff Bader, Obama's top East Asia policy aide, told reporters.

Obama also spoke about the "need for China to do more than it has done to date."

The president warned China on Monday that the economic relationship must be a "two-way street" in a further toughening of American rhetoric on currency and trade disputes.

The US administration maintains that Beijing is keeping its currency artificially low against the dollar to make its exports more competitive, and Washington is showing increasing signs of frustration over the long-running row.

China hit back that foreign pressure over its currency policy was "unwise" and "shortsighted."