Obama, Hu Play Up Cooperation, but Divisions Remain

November 17, 2009 - 7:01 AM
"The relationship between our two nations goes far beyond any single issue," President Obama said in a joint appearance with Chinese President Hu Jintao that followed about 2 1/2 hours of formal, closed-door conversations.
Obama-Hu Jintao

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Chinese President Hu Jintao after his arrival at the state guest house in Beijing, China, on Monday, Nov. 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel, Pool)

Beijing (AP) - President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao emerged from hours of intense talks Tuesday determined to marshal their combined clout on crucial issues, but still showing divisions over economic, security and human rights issues that have long bedeviled the two powers.
 
"The relationship between our two nations goes far beyond any single issue," Obama said in a joint appearance with Hu that followed about 2 1/2 hours of formal, closed-door conversations.
 
Both leaders spoke in bold terms of the growing relationship between the countries. They emphasized cooperation on the economy, climate change, energy and to varying degrees the nuclear threats of Iran and North Korea. In a minor agreement, the two set a date for resuming a long-stalled dialogue on human rights early next year.
 
But differences remained, underscoring that tensions would hardly be erased in Obama's first, high-profile visit to China.
 
Hu put in a barb about recent U.S. levies on imports of Chinese-made tires and steel, calling for a stronger joint stand against protectionism. Obama reiterated that human rights were universal and need to be respected by all.
 
These differences came carefully muffled amid talk of cooperation, a sign that both leaders acknowledge that as China continues to grow in power it and the U.S. must find ways to work together to avoid conflict.
 
Obama spoke at length about the nations' joint interests and said, "I do not believe that one country's success must come at the expense of another." Both leaders repeated their new official description of relations as "positive, cooperative and comprehensive."
 
Obama and Hu said they agreed on restarting the collapsed six-nation effort to rid North Korea of its nuclear programs. The Chinese said the effort was essential to "peace and stability in northeast Asia."
 
Beijing has supported sterner sanctions against Pyongyang for its continued nuclear weapons program, though it has done little to enforce them against its neighbor and ally.
 
On Iran, where the U.S. needs China's clout to help pressure the nation to give up any of its own nuclear weapons positions, Obama spoke with sterner language than Hu.
 
"Iran has an opportunity to present and demonstrate its peaceful intentions, but if it fails to take this opportunity, there will be consequences," the U.S. president said. Hu made no mention of consequences, saying the Iran conflict is important to resolve through negotiations.
 
China has significant economic ties with Iran, and Beijing has appeared less willing to endorse a tougher approach to restrict Tehran's uranium enrichment and suspected pursuit of atomic bombs.
 
The Chinese president also called on the U.S. to respect China's "core interests" -- code for ending support for Taiwan and for the Dalai Lama, in his Tibetan government-in-exile. Obama obliged by saying that Tibet was part of China, but urged China to restart talks with the Dalai Lama's representatives -- something Hu did not mention.
 
On climate, Obama said the United States and China are looking for a comprehensive deal during next month's climate change summit that will "rally the world."
 
Obama said the goal at the Copenhagen meeting should be an agreement that has "immediate operational effect," not just a political declaration. As the world's two largest consumers and producers of energy, Obama said the United States and China must play a key role in negotiating an agreement. Hu committed to helping, but only within China's capabilities.
 
Obama said China has helped the United States pull out of the worst recession in a generation. He said a revised economic approach will help increase U.S. exports and create jobs while helping bring about higher living standards in China.
 
Obama came to China seeking help with an array of global troubles. He and Hu sought to strike a balance between trading partners and competitors during Obama's trip to China during his Asia tour.
 
A day before, Obama prodded China about Internet controls and free speech during a forum with students in Shanghai. His message was not widely heard in the country; his words were drastically limited online and shown on just one regional television channel.
 
He also suggested that China, now a giant in economic impact as well as territory, must assume a larger role on the world stage -- part of "burden of leadership" it shares with the United States.
 
Eager to achieve a successful summit, the two leaders avoided spats on economic issues. With America's budget deficit soaring to a yearly record of $1.42 trillion, China is the No. 1 lender to Washington and has expressed concern that the falling price of the dollar threatens the value of its U.S. holdings.
 
In the U.S., American manufacturers blame China's own low currency value for contributing to the loss of 5.6 million manufacturing jobs over the past decade. During that time, America's trade gap with China has soared.
 
With sightseeing in Beijing's Forbidden City sandwiched in between their talks, the two leaders' day was to end at a lavish state dinner in Obama's honor.
 
Topmost on Obama's ambitious agenda with Hu is the so-far elusive search for global agreement on a new climate change pact, stymied by disagreement between rich nations like the U.S. and developing nations such as China. Wealthier countries want legally binding greenhouse-gas reduction targets for themselves as well as for energy-guzzling developing nations such as China, India and Brazil. Those poorer nations say they will set only nonbinding goals and they demand assistance to make the transition to harder targets.
 
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Associated Press writers Charles Hutzler, Mark S. Smith and Alexa Olesen contributed to this story.