Obama, Hu Pledge Cooperation

President Obama met with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, for wide-ranging talks on the challenges facing their two countries. The two discussed how they can pursue a more balanced economic strategy, cooperate on curbing greenhouse gas emissions and the spread of nuclear weapons.

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Jobs, climate change, trade and nuclear weapons - today in China, President Obama and China's leader, Hu Jintao, discussed those topics and more. It was a full day for Mr. Obama. In addition to talks, he was formerly welcomed to the ceremony in Beijing. He toured the Forbidden City, which for centuries was home to Chinese emperors and he attended a state dinner.

NPR's Scott Horsley has this report on what Mr. Obama and his Chinese counterpart discussed when they sat down together.

SCOTT HORSLEY: More than halfway through an eight-day tour of Asia, President Obama is still keenly aware that the number one issue back home is jobs. He and President Hu talked about how the U.S. and China can pursue a more balanced economic strategy, so more Americans are working and more Chinese are shopping.

President BARACK OBAMA: A strategy where America saves more, spends less, reduces our long-term debt and where China makes adjustments across a broad range of policies to rebalance its economy and spur domestic demand. This will lead to increased U.S. exports and jobs on the one hand, and higher living standards in China on the other.

HORSLEY: With its rising living standards, China is beginning to consume more energy and produce more greenhouse gases. The U.S. and China agreed to work together on ways to generate cleaner energy. And while next month's climate summit in Copenhagen now seems unlikely to produce a binding agreement on greenhouse gases, Mr. Obama says the U.S. and China hope to lead the way toward solid progress in that direction.

Pres. OBAMA: This kind of comprehensive agreement would be an important step forward in the effort to rally the world around a solution to our climate challenge. And we agreed that each of us would take significant mitigation actions and stand behind these commitments.

HORSLEY: The two leaders also talked about curbing the spread of nuclear weapons in North Korea and Iran. China is part of the so-called P5+1 group of countries leaning on Iran to prove that its nuclear program is peaceful. Negotiations with Iran have so far been unsuccessful though, and the U.S. has said time is running out.

Pres. OBAMA: On this point our two nations and the rest of our P5+1 partners are unified. Iran has an opportunity to present and demonstrate its peaceful intentions but if it fails to take this opportunity, there will be consequences.

HORSLEY: Presumably, those consequences would involve stiffer sanctions against Iran. China has been reluctant to go along with that though, and President Hu gave no indication today his position on sanctions has changed.

(Soundbite of bugle)

HORSLEY: Important differences between the U.S. and China were largely glossed over though on this day of ceremonial goodwill. The United States' new ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, has been watching these events since the U.S. and China reopened diplomatic ties some three decades ago. And Huntsman, a Republican, said he was proud of Mr. Obama's performance.

Mr. JON HUNTSMAN (U.S. Ambassador to China): The President stepped off the plane in Shanghai in an environment that I'd have to characterize as being really at an all-time high, a cruising altitude that is higher than any other time in recent memory, thereby able to kind of sail above some of the windsheers and the storms that have typically been part of the bilateral relationship.

HORSLEY: President Obama did raise a few sensitive topics though in his meeting with President Hu. He urged China to stop censoring the Internet to respect the human rights of ethnic and religious minorities and quickly reopen talks with the exiled leader of Tibet.

Pres. OBAMA: While we recognize that Tibet is part of the People's Republic of China, the United States supports the early resumption of dialogue between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama to resolve any concerns and differences that the two sides may have.

HORSLEY: The U.S. and China are scheduled to talk more about human rights at a meeting next year. President Hu said it's only normal the two countries would disagree on some issues. After a day of bridging those barriers, Mr. Obama wraps up his China trip with a visit to the Great Wall tomorrow.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Beijing.

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Obama, Hu Touch On Issues That Unite, Divide

Obama and Hu i i

hide captionPresident Obama listens to Chinese President Hu Jintao as they attend a state dinner reception Tuesday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Standing behind them are their translators.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
Obama and Hu

President Obama listens to Chinese President Hu Jintao as they attend a state dinner reception Tuesday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Standing behind them are their translators.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

After meeting Tuesday in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed to jointly tackle climate change, nuclear disarmament and other global issues, but remained apart on the sensitive issue of human rights.

After an arrival ceremony, Obama and Hu talked for several hours on a variety of global challenges. Addressing reporters afterward, the two leaders described a mostly positive meeting. The White House described the meetings as "an important first step" in building a U.S.-Sino partnership.

They spoke of moving beyond the divisiveness over human rights, trade and military tensions that have bedeviled relations in past decades.

"The major challenges of the 21st century, from climate change to nuclear proliferation to economic recovery, are challenges that touch both our nations, and challenges that neither of our nations can solve by acting alone," Obama said.

But the U.S. president also pointedly raised the question of human rights, saying he did not believe certain principles were unique to America.

"They are universal rights and ... they should be available to all peoples, to all ethnic and religious minorities," he said in his only nationally televised remarks on the sensitive issue.

The two leaders stood side by side, but Hu still managed to avoid directly discussing the issue of human rights.

"Given our differences in national conditions, it is only normal that our two sides may disagree on some issues," Hu said through an interpreter. "What is important is to respect and accommodate each other's core issues and major concerns."

He acknowledged that "countries in today's world have become more and more interdependent" even as differences in approach exposed the limits of cooperation on some key issues.

Obama raised the subject of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader, directly with China's president. He also stressed Washington's commitment to human rights for all of China's ethnic and religious minorities.

At the joint appearance, Hu 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 Tibet was part of China, but he urged China to restart talks with the Dalai Lama's representatives — something Hu did not mention.

"This will lead to increased U.S. exports and jobs on the one hand, and higher living standards in China on the other," Obama said.

The two men also agreed to stop the spread of nuclear weapons in North Korea and Iran. They said Iran must show that its nuclear program is peaceful and transparent.

"Iran has an opportunity to present and demonstrate its peaceful intentions, but if it fails to take this opportunity, there will be consequences," Obama said.

Although Hu agreed on the need for Iran to climb down from its nuclear ambitions, he made no comment on the "consequences" that the U.S. president mentioned.

Jeffrey Bader of the National Security Council said the talks on Iran mean the "door is open to try to find a resolution.

"But if the Iranians do not agree, then we will turn to track two," he said. "And we expect the Chinese to be with us."

The two leaders also announced the establishment of a joint Clean Energy Research Center.

Obama said both countries were looking for a comprehensive deal that would rally the world during next month's climate change summit in Copenhagen. He said it should be an agreement with immediate operational effect, not just a political declaration.

On trade issues, Hu said that the two countries must shun protectionism. Obama called on China to relax controls that keep the Chinese currency relatively weak and thus help fuel exports — something Beijing officials have rejected in recent days.

White House aides called the meeting a success, despite the lack of a concrete agreement on some key issues.

From NPR and wire service reports.

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