- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 20, 2006

President Bush will welcome Chinese President Hu Jintao today with a 21-gun salute on the White House South Lawn before sitting down with him in the Oval Office and working through a host of contentious issues, from trade to Iran to human rights.

Mr. Bush is prepared to talk tough with the communist leader, who is making his first state visit to the U.S. since taking power. Mr. Bush will urge Mr. Hu to do more to cut his country’s swelling trade surplus with the United States and join efforts to isolate Iran because of its nuclear program.

The talks between the leaders will be frank, one U.S. official said this week. “They’ve gotten far beyond the pleasantries in this relationship and will work pragmatically together to deal with issues of real concerns to both sides,” said Dennis Wilder, acting senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council.

U.S. officials also will press Beijing’s leadership to exert real pressure on North Korea to return to the six-way negotiations on the country’s nuclear ambitions.

China, which is North Korea’s only major ally, is seen as having strong leverage with the government in Pyongyang. An informal gathering last week in Tokyo of the six countries involved in the talks to get North Korea to give up its nuclear program failed to produce a breakthrough in the stalled negotiations.

In addition, “President Bush will also engage the Chinese leader on other key international issues, such as China’s nontransparent military buildup, the continuing military expansion opposite Taiwan, and China’s support for resource-rich countries with poor records on democracy and human rights,” Mr. Wilder said.

After the pomp of the official arrival, the two leaders will deliver remarks. They then will adjourn for a meeting in the Oval Office to discuss security issues, followed by a larger meeting of officials in the Cabinet Room to discuss economic issues.

Then the two leaders and their spouses will attend a lavish “social” luncheon with 200 guests that will include a bluegrass band. In the afternoon, Mr. Hu will meet at Blair House with Vice President Dick Cheney and several congressional leaders.

In discussing Iran, Mr. Bush will raise China’s role as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and emphasize “that we need the Iranian government to assume a more responsible posture in relation to its nuclear ambitions,” Mr. Wilder said.

The Security Council has demanded that Iran cease uranium enrichment work, which the United States and some of its allies suspect is meant to produce weapons. But veto-holding council members China and Russia have opposed punishing Iran.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said this week that the president’s China policy is failing. In a letter to the president, he urged Mr. Bush to do more to protect U.S. economic and trade interests with China and to spotlight what he called China’s deteriorating human rights record.

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