The Obama administration is seeking to enhance counterterrorism cooperation with China, according to a senior U.S. administration official.
Speaking to reporters via a conference call on Tuesday, the official revealed that the U.S. is examining ways to increase cooperation in sharing information and bringing stability to countries in the Middle East such as Iraq.
The Obama administration official’s comments came at the end of a visit to China by U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice during which the terrorism subject reportedly came up.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official told reporters:
Both sides recognize that we, as many others in the international community do, face a threat from international terrorism.
We discussed some ways that we could work together to counter that threat. Both in specific areas such as increasing exchanging of information, but also in other ways to contribute to stability in places like Iraq which can also have a positive goal here.
Certainly, the Chinese did raise their concerns regarding certain organizations like ETIM [East Turkestan Islamic Movement] and both Ambassador Rice and her counterparts had a candid exchange on that as well.
The official did not elaborate further on the last point.
He did note that “both countries recognize they and the rest of the international community face a clear danger from the threat of terrorism and will keep looking for ways to increase cooperation in tackling it,” reports Reuters.
Chinese state media has suggested that as many as 300 Chinese Muslims may have joined the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in the Middle East.
A new report by the New America think tank confirmed that the large majority of Chinese ISIS jihadists hail from northwestern China’s volatile and predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang, home to the ethnic Uighur population.
China has tried to encourage Western nations in particular to help in its fight against what it calls Islamist extremists in the violence-prone far western Chinese region of Xinjiang operating as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).
But Western countries have been reluctant to share intelligence with China or otherwise cooperate, saying China has provided little evidence to prove ETIM’s existence and citing concern about possible human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
The Uighur (or Uyghur) minority in autonomous Xinjiang, China’s largest province, is reportedly oppressed by the Beijing government, an allegation denied by the Communist republic.
According to the New America report, “not a single” Chinese ISIS fighter, out of a sample of 118, “reported to have previously fought in a jihad, suggesting that the sample is not comprised of seasoned veterans of foreign wars, such as with Uyghur separatists in the al-Qaeda-affiliated Turkistan Islamic Party.”
A report issued by the U.S. State Department last month drew the ire of China for highlighting a lack of transparency or information from the People’s Republic about incidents it deemed terrorism and limited counterterrorism cooperation with the United States.
China has already vowed “enhanced cooperation” against terrorism with Russia. The Obama administration recently announced that it has joined forces with the Kremlin in Syria over objections from the Pentagon and the CIA.