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China’s president to make first official U.S. visit

/ Source: The Associated Press

Chinese President Hu Jintao will make his first official visit to Washington in April and his premier told a visiting U.S. official that Beijing wanted to improve communication with Washington.

Visiting Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and the Chinese Foreign Ministry both confirmed Hu’s upcoming trip to the U.S., which comes at a time of tensions between the two countries over trade, China’s military buildup and its human rights record.

Hu’s visit “will be a big event for the two countries and will be very important to furthering the strategic partnership between China and the U.S.,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said at a briefing. No details on Hu’s itinerary were released.

Hu has not made an official visit to the United States since he became president in 2003. Hu had planned a visit in September but postponed it after Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf Coast.

At the time, he did have a private meeting with President Bush in New York, where they both attended ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the United Nations. Bush visited Hu in Beijing in November.

Wide-ranging talks
Zoellick arrived in Beijing late Monday and met Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing on Tuesday.

“We hope to improve the bilateral strategic dialogue in order to further improve mutual understanding and mutual trust,” Wen told Zoellick.

Zoellick told reporters he had touched on a broad range of bilateral and international issues with Chinese officials including “economics, security, reform issues and openness in China.” He stressed China’s role as a “stakeholder” in the new economy and global community.

He also held meetings with Chinese and American non-governmental groups working on developing the rule of law in China, he said without elaborating.

Washington’s relationship with China has been strained by concerns over Beijing’s growing military prowess, limits on political and religious freedoms in the country, and China’s growing trade surplus with the United States.

Zoellick also met Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and Deputy Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo during his one-day stay in the capital.

Last month, Zoellick met with Dai in Washington to discuss issues that included trade, North Korea’s nuclear program, bird flu and Taiwan.

Both sides concluded after two days of talks that while they do not always follow the same policies, they can cooperate on policy goals important to both countries.

Both sides report steady progress
During their meeting Tuesday, Dai and Zoellick agreed the relationship was making steady progress, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing Chinese officials privy to the talks.

During a meeting with the foreign minister, Zoellick wished his Chinese hosts a happy New Year, and spent several amiable minutes with Li discussing the merits of being born in the Year of the Dog, which begins Jan. 29.

Zoellick will also travel Wednesday to the southwestern city of Chengdu, where he will visit a panda research center and talk to officials.

He leaves China on Wednesday for Switzerland, where he will attend the World Economic Forum in Davos.