WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. and China wrapped up two days of high-level talks on security and economy in upbeat fashion Thursday, but not before trading barbs about NSA leaker Edward Snowden and human rights.
The two sides announced more cooperation on combating climate change and their plans to negotiate a bilateral investment treaty.
But Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said the U.S. was very disappointed how authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong handled Snowden's case by refusing to extradite him before he flew to Russia.
"China's handling of this case was not consistent with the spirit of Sunnylands and the new type of relationship that we both seek to build," Burns said, referring to the summit a month ago between President Barack Obama and China's new president, Xi Jinping, at a California resort.
Obama also expressed disappointment about the Snowden case when he met Thursday in the Oval Office with the two leaders of the Chinese delegation, a White House statement said.
State Councilor Yang Jiechi, who was sitting on the same dais as Burns as they closed the talks, retorted in his remarks that the handling of the case by authorities in semi-autonomous Hong Kong was "beyond reproach."
Yang also rejected U.S. criticism of China's rights record in the ethnic minority areas of Tibet and Xinjiang, saying people there are "enjoying happier lives and they enjoy unprecedented freedom and human rights."
He added: "We hope the U.S. will improve its own human rights situation."
About 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2011 to protest Chinese policies in Tibet and call for the return of the Dalai Lama, their exiled spiritual leader. In the far western region of Xinjiang, minority Muslims are also agitating against Beijing and clashes in recent months have killed at least 56 people.
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