Clinton presses China on rights

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday told China that it cannot deny the "aspirations" of its citizens as she opened talks in Beijing marred by a row over a Chinese dissident.

"We believe that all governments do have to answer to citizens' aspirations for dignity and the rule of law and that no nation can or should deny those rights," Clinton said as she opened the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

Clinton, however, did not directly mention the name of activist Chen Guangcheng, who on Wednesday left refuge at the US embassy in a deal that has been criticised by human rights activists.

Clinton called for cooperation between the United States and China on a range of issues including on North Korea, which defiantly tested a rocket on April 13 and is feared to be preparing a third nuclear test.

"The missile launch seems to suggest that Pyongyang actually views improved relations with the outside world not as a goal, but as a threat," Clinton said.

"We recognise the role China is playing and are continuing to work together to make it clear to North Korea that strength and security will come from prioritising the needs of its people -- not from further provocation," she said.

The United States suspended an agreement to provide food assistance after North Korea's launch, which Pyongyang contends was a failed attempt to put a satellite into orbit but Washington says was a long-range missile test.

China is the main supporter of North Korea and took the unusual step of voicing public concern about the launch, although a recent study alleged that Chinese technology provided the equipment for the rocket.

Separately, Clinton praised China for backing a UN Security Council resolution Wednesday that gave Sudan and South Sudan an ultimatum to halt hostilities and threw support behind African Union-led peace efforts.

"I'm pleased that China and the United States joined with a unified international community just hours ago to support a strong UN Security (Council) resolution that provides unambiguous support to the African Union roadmap," Clinton said.

China has faced heavy criticism among US lawmakers for backing Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir -- who faces an international arrest warrant for alleged genocide in a separate conflict in Darfur.

But China -- a major energy importer -- has reached out to oil-producing South Sudan since the nation gained independence in July under a peace deal that ended one of Africa's bloodiest wars.

Clinton also called for cooperation with China on pressuring Iran over its nuclear programme, ending violence in Syria and fighting climate change.

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