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Obama to visit Beijing in November: US ambassador

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Aug 22, 2009
Barack Obama will make his first presidential visit to China in November to bring fresh impetus to relations between the United States and the Asian giant, Washington's new ambassador said Saturday.

John Huntsman told reporters Obama "is going to be visiting in the middle of November".

"By the end of the year, after the president has been able to sit down with many of the good leaders here in China, I am hopeful, I am confident, that by the end of the year the US-China relationship will be stronger than ever before," he said after arriving in the Chinese capital late Friday.

The White House announced in April Obama had accepted an invitation by President Hu Jintao to visit in the second half of 2009.

But this is the first time either side has indicated a month for the visit.

Huntsman did not offer precise dates but the US president could stop over either side of a November 14-15 visit to Singapore to attend the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

Huntsman, unanimously approved by the US Senate earlier this month as Obama's ambassador to Beijing, called the US-China relationship "the most important in the world".

Besides the economic and trade relationship, the United States and China needed to focus on a series of other issues, including energy and climate, the global economy and regional security, he said.

"These are complex issues, they are not going to be resolved easily, but in order to get to where we all know we can be... it is going to take the United States and China working more diligently on them," Huntsman, 49, said, speaking in Chinese and English.

China briefly cut off military exchanges with the United States in October 2008 over a 6.5-billion-dollar US arms sale to Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China claims, with its military calling such deals "the greatest obstacle to Sino-American relations".

And in March this year two tense standoffs between US and Chinese vessels in the South China Sea triggered accusations by the United States that China was behaving in an "aggressive" manner.

"We all know from time to time we may disagree but the world today, more than ever before, relies too much on a healthy and stable US-China relationship," Huntsman said.

Huntsman added that Beijing and Washington needed to work together on the nuclear issues of Iran and North Korea, while the United States would also seek China's cooperation in the war in Afghanistan.

"There has never been a more important period for the United States and China to get along and to discover our shared interests," he said.

The new ambassador will also likely be spending time soothing China's concerns over the falling value of its nearly 800 billion dollars in US securities as US government deficit spending balloons.

Huntsman, once floated as a possible 2012 Republican challenger to Obama, also said he would seek to broaden the scope of America's human rights dialogue with China.

"The human rights dialogue needs to be regularised and integrated into our broader discussions so that it isn't just a once per year discussion but rather an ongoing dialogue that is meaningful and reflects our values as a country," he said.

Huntsman, who mastered Mandarin living in Taiwan as a Mormon missionary, is the former Republican governor of Utah and ambassador to Singapore.

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