* Warmer comments come after period of strains
* Beijing also seen as firmer on Iran nuclear dispute
* No word on whether Hu will attend Washington summit
(Adds comments on Iran)
By Chris Buckley
BEIJING March 30 (Reuters) - China on Tuesday sought smoother ties with the United States and welcomed President Barack Obama’s call for a positive relationship in a meeting with Beijing’s new ambassador to Washington.
The conciliatory words from the two powers, which have been through a bout of strains, came after Chinese envoy, Zhang Yesui, met Obama and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg on Monday. [ID:nN29118264]
“The president also stressed the need for the United States and China to work together and with the international community on critical global issues including nonproliferation and pursuing sustained and balanced global growth,” said a statement by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs after Obama’s meeting with Zhang.
Since the start of the year, China and Washington have traded criticisms over Beijing’s controls on the Internet, U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan and Obama’s meeting with Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
For full coverage of U.S.-China relations, click [ID:nCHINA] ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
China regards the self-ruled island of Taiwan as an illegitimate breakaway from its territory, and deems the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled Buddhist leader, a “separatist”.
Most recently, U.S. complaints that China is keeping its yuan currency, and its goods, too cheap have drawn angry rejoinders from China, raising market worries that the world’s biggest and third-biggest economies are entering turbulent trade waters.
While those tensions have not evaporated, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang indicated that his government wanted to lower the temperature of contention.
“China appreciates President Obama’s and Deputy Secretary of State Steinberg’s positive stance on promoting China-U.S. relations,” Qin told a regular news conference in Beijing.
Qin did not give any details of Zhang’s discussions with Obama and Steinberg. But Qin said his government “took seriously the U.S. side’s reiteration of its principled commitments on the Taiwan and Tibet issues.”
China says the United States must accept that Taiwan and Tibet are part of “one China”. Washington has urged Beijing to address those disputes through peaceful dialogue.
“Recently, there have been uncalled for disturbances in China-U.S. relations, and this does not suit our common bilateral interests,” added Qin.
“Healthy China-U.S. relations suit the fundamental interests of both countries and their peoples, and is beneficial to the peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region and the world,” he said.
The Chinese spokesman Qin said his government opposed Iran acquiring nuclear acquiring nuclear weapons, but stopped short of backing the new sanctions on Tehran that Washington has urged.
Beijing faces rising calls from Western nations to approve proposed new U.N. sanctions on Iran, which maintains that its nuclear programme is for peaceful ends.
China has said repeatedly that it does not believe sanctions are the “fundamental way” to solve the dispute. But Qin suggested that China also wants Iran to make concessions.
“China opposes Iran possessing nuclear weapons, but at the same time we believe that, as a sovereign state, Iran has the right to peacefully develop nuclear energy,” said Qin.
“At present, we hope that all sides will make substantive efforts and demonstrate flexibility over the Iran nuclear issue,” he added.
China has urged Tehran to accept a proposal from the International Atomic Energy Agency that would involve swapping Iran’s low-enriched uranium for higher-grade nuclear fuel for a Tehran reactor producing medical isotopes. [ID:nTOE62G09A] (Editing by Benjamin Kang Lim and Sanjeev Miglani)