Obama welcomes Hu by urging partnership, respect for human rights

Chinese President Hu Jintao is making his first state visit to the United States.
By Debbi Wilgoren, Nia-Malika Henderson and John Pomfret
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 19, 2011; 10:37 AM

President Obama welcomed Chinese President Hu Jintao to the White House Wednesday with warm words about cooperation and sober reminders of the high stakes of the relationship between the two superpowers and the global importance of universal freedoms.

"We have an enormous stake in each other's success," Obama said. "...Nations, including our own, will be more prosperous and more secure when we work together."

In his remarks, Hu said he hoped to "increase mutual trust" between China and the U.S. during his visit, and build a "comprehensive" friendship for the 21st century. "

Our cooperation as partners should be based on mutual respect," Hu said, through an interpreter. "We live in an increasingly diverse and colorful world. China and the United States should respect each other's choice of development path and each other's core interests."

In a clear reminder of U.S. concerns about China's human right's record, Obama told Hu that, "societies are more harmonious, nations are more successful, and the world is more just, when the rights and responsibilities of all nations and all people are upheld, including the universal rights of every human being."

The Chinese leader arrived on the south lawn of the White House in a black limousine festooned with the American and Chinese flags. Honor guards from the four military services stood at attention in dress uniforms, a military band played patriotic tunes and there was a 21-gun salute.

Among the hundreds of dignitaries and onlookers waving American and Chinese flags was Obama's younger daughter, Sasha, who was there with her fourth-grade classmates from Sidwell Friends School. The youngsters are studying China in social studies, White House staffers said, and came to the welcoming ceremony as a field trip, of sorts.

Hu is to spend much of the rest of the day in substantive talks on security, economic and political issues. He and Obama will hold a joint news conference at 1 p.m.

Hu's visit to the United States brings him face to face with an Obama administration that has grown more hard-nosed about the course of what is arguably the most important relationship the United States maintains with a foreign power.

"This relationship is going to, in many ways, determine the peace and stability and prosperity of the 21st century," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told NBC's "Today" show Wednesday morning.

"We want to see more cooperation on the economic front. We want to see more cooperation dealing with the very thorny problem of North Korea...We have to chart a steady course and stay on it, and never forget that we stand for American interests and American values."

Hu landed at Andrews Air Force Base on Tuesday afternoon and had a rare private dinner hours later with Obama. Both Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner were in attendance.

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