Chinese President Hu Jintao (
The move upset Hu's plans to try to polish Beijing's image in Washington amid strains over textile imports, China's growing economic and military power, human rights and other issues. It would have been Hu's first US visit since becoming president in 2003.
Hu talked with Bush by phone and the two leaders agreed to postpone a meeting planned for Wednesday "due to the special condition faced with the US government in handling with the serious disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement Saturday.
The White House also said Saturday that Bush had to cancel his meeting with Hu because of the hurricane's aftermath but the two leaders agreed to meet in New York on the sidelines of the UN meeting in mid-September.
Hu had been scheduled to visit Washington and Seattle and give a speech at Yale University -- Bush's alma mater -- before traveling to Canada and Mexico.
The Chinese president had been scheduled to begin his US trip in the Seattle area, with planned visits to the Microsoft campus in suburban Redmond, an event hosted by Boeing Co, a major public address and a state dinner.
"We regret that we will not be able to welcome President Hu and his delegation to Washington state on Monday but appreciate his sensitivity to the impact of the tragic hurricane on the American people," Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire said in a statement.
"We have an important trade and cultural relationship with China and look forward to greeting President Hu in the future," she added.
The announcement came after Hu's government on Saturday offered US$5 million in aid to Katrina survivors and said it would send medical personnel if necessary.
"At a time when the American people face the difficulty of a serious natural disaster, the Chinese people stand steadfastly with them," the Foreign Ministry statement quoted Hu as saying.
Hu and Bush agreed to hold a bilateral meeting when they attend ceremonies in New York for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the UN, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. That event takes place Sept. 14 through 16.
The two leaders agreed to reschedule Hu's visit at a "time of mutual convenience," the Foreign Ministry statement said.
The trip was planned amid tensions over US efforts to restrict surging imports of low-priced Chinese textiles, which US producers say are threatening thousands of jobs. Two rounds of talks -- the second of which ended Thursday in Beijing -- failed to produce a settlement.
Beijing regards such a fence-mending mission as an increasingly urgent priority. Chinese leaders have watched with alarm as a series of strains in recent months marred ties with Washington, their biggest trading partner and the last superpower.
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