US President Barack Obama will host Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) on a state visit on Jan. 19, the White House said on Wednesday, setting the scene for a summit likely to grapple with North Korea and currency friction.
This was the first firm date for Hu’s long-planned trip.
While Beijing and Washington are likely to use the summit to cast their relationship in a positive light, Obama and Hu will have plenty of disputes to talk over, especially China’s trade surplus and currency controls and its reluctance to chastise North Korea.
“President Hu’s visit will highlight the importance of expanding cooperation between the United States and China on bilateral, regional and global issues, as well as the friendship between the peoples of our two countries,” the White House said in a statement on Wednesday.
Obama wants to “continue building a partnership that advances our common interests and addresses our shared concerns,” the White House said.
Hu’s visit will include a state dinner in the evening. That will be a symbolic trophy for the Chinese leader, who analysts have said wants to use his high-profile trip to brandish his status as a statesman as he prepares to leave office from late 2012.
China has not confirmed the date of Hu’s visit, only saying that it is likely to be early next year.
Obama is likely to urge Hu to increase pressure on his ally North Korea.
US complaints that China keeps its currency too cheap, giving it an unfair trade advantage, are also likely to feature.
But carefully negotiated summits such as this are more about nurturing understanding than scoring policy breakthroughs, said David Lampton, professor of China studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.
“Lately, one of the biggest problems in US-China relations is that each side has had excessive expectations of what the other could conceivably deliver,” Lampton wrote in an earlier e-mail response to questions about Hu’s trip. “If this trip can lead the two leaders to have more realistic appreciations of the limits each country faces in dealing with the other, that alone should be counted a successful trip.”
US Defense -Secretary Robert Gates will head to China early next month in a sign of easing strains between the Pacific powers, and will also visit US ally Japan, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday.
The Pentagon said Gates will travel to China from Jan. 9 to Jan. 12, one year after Beijing snapped off military relations with -Washington in protest against a multibillion-dollar US arms package for Taiwan.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters that Gates would work to build a military relationship with China “that is confident in tone, cooperative in nature and comprehensive in scope.”
Gates will look to “extend upon those areas where we can cooperate” with China’s military and promote dialogue aimed at improving “mutual understanding and -reducing the risk of miscalculation,” Morrell told reporters.
Gates will visit at the invitation of Chinese Minister of National Defense Liang Guanglie (梁光烈), Morrell said. The two nations have already resumed low-level military contacts at a technical level.
The visit has been keenly sought by Obama’s administration, which considers the military to be the most hesitant about the US among China’s major institutions.