Obama, Hu look to forge more cooperation at state visit

Obama, Hu look to forge more cooperation at state visit

The leaders of the world's largest economic powers pledged Wednesday to forge stronger ties to promote global prosperity and resolve security challenges, but there was little indication the United States and China bridged the gap on some key differences, dpa reported.

US President Barack Obama met with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the White House for an official state visit - the first for a Chinese leader in more than 13 years - to explore areas of mutual cooperation and ease tension in the relationship.

"Together we've shown that the United States and China, when we cooperate, can receive substantial benefits," Obama said at a press conference with his Chinese counterpart. "The positive, constructive, cooperative US-China relationship is good for the United States."

The two leaders sat down for discussions on wide ranging issues that included containing the nuclear activities of Iran and North Korea, economic, trade and monetary policy, as well as global warming and human rights.

The day began with Hu's arrival ceremony at the White House's South Lawn. Obama and First Lady Michelle greeted Hu as he stepped out of his limousine to the tune of a military band playing the national anthems for both countries and a 21-gun salute. After shaking hands, Obama and Hu conducted an inspection of a military honour guard on the White House lawn and greeted onlookers along ropelines.

   Obama's hosting of Hu for a state visit, the highest gesture bestowed upon a foreign leader, is intended to put behind a year thorny events and to build a more cooperative relationship. Hu said the two sides were opening "a new chapter" and emphasized the importance of the relationship at a time when the world is rapidly changing.

   "The China-US relationship has grown into one of strategic significance and global influence," Hu said through a translator.

High on the economic agenda was pressuring China to change a monetary policy that keeps its currency low and is the focus of US concerns that the practice leaves American products at a competitive disadvantage against Chinese exports. Obama noted that Beijing has taken steps to correct the problem but said more needs to be done to get the yuan's value more in line with market forces.

"We discussed China's progress in moving toward a more market- oriented economy and how we can ensure a strong and balanced global economic recovery," Obama said. "We agreed that in China this means boosting domestic demand. Here in the United States it means spending less and exporting more."

The United States wants China to reduce trade barriers to allow more US goods that would help close differences in the trade imbalance between the two countries. That effort got a boost as the Chinese agreed to purchase more than 45 billion dollars in US products, including up to 200 Boeing planes in a deal valued at 19 billion dollars, the White House said. Obama said the deal will support 235,000 jobs in the United States.

Also on the agenda was the sensitive issue of human rights in China, an issue Obama said he will continue to raise with Hu and the Chinese. "We do so because we believe that by upholding these universal rights all nations, including China, will ultimately be more prosperous and successful," Obama said.

He credited China with economic policies that have helped lift much of the country's population out of poverty.

Hu acknowledged that China still faces social development challenges and that more needs to be done to promote human rights.

   "China is willing to engage in dialogue and exchanges with the United States on the basis of mutual respect and the principle of non-interference in each other's internal affairs," Hu said.

After meeting with Obama, Hu attended a luncheon with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the State Department. He will return to the White House Wednesday evening for the state dinner. Hu and Obama earlier met with business executives from top US and Chinese firms.

The state dinner marks an effort by both sides to dampen decades of mistrust and suspicions, among them that the United States is trying to contain China's development as a major power. At the same time, Hu was highlighting the investments China has made in the US economy that has helped produce jobs.

   "We have an enormous stake in each other's success," Obama said after welcoming Hu.

   The two sides have encountered sharp divides in the last year, starting with US arms sales to Taiwan followed by China's temporary suspension of military-to-military relations. Then Obama's meeting with the Dalai Lama irked China. Frictions arose with China's territorial claims in the South China Sea, and China's maritime incident near the Senkaku Islands with Japan, a major US ally.

   US frustration festered over Beijing's reluctance to clearly condemn North Korea over the March sinking of a South Korean warship and shelling of a South Korean island in November, two incidents that killed more than 40 South Koreans.

China has voiced annoyance at US naval exercises near its territorial waters.

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