Obama dispatches Rice to China amid tensions

President Obama's top foreign policy aide is headed to China next month as the U.S. looks to soothe tensions with Beijing ahead of Obama's travel there in November.

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National security adviser Susan Rice will attend meetings with senior Chinese officials "to consult on a range of bilateral, regional, and global issues," White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.

"She will underscore the United States’ commitment to building a productive relationship between our two countries in advance of the President’s visit to China in November," Hayden continued.

Diplomatic relations between China and the U.S. have been strained in recent weeks amid a series of provocations in the South China Sea. Vietnam has complained that Chinese warships have intimidated their boats traveling through crucial shipping passages, while Japan has accused the Chinese of buzzing its aircraft near the disputed Senkaku Islands.

Last month, the U.S. accused China of intercepting a U.S. Navy reconnaissance aircraft over international waters.

"We have communicated directly to the Chinese government our objection to this type of action," deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said at the time, calling the move a "deeply concerning provocation."

"What we’ve encouraged is constructive military-to-military ties with China, and this type of action clearly violates the spirit of that engagement, and we’ve made our concerns known directly to Beijing," Rhodes said.

Beijing, meanwhile, has criticized the U.S. for providing South Korea with a high-altitude missile defense system. And both countries spent much of the summer trading accusations of hacking against one another.

The president's trip to China will be focused around the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, which will focus largely on efforts toward free-trade agreements. The president is also expected to visit Myanmar and Australia during the trip.