Bush, Hu smile, pledge cooperation but make little progress; Bush apologizes for protest | VailDaily.com

Bush, Hu smile, pledge cooperation but make little progress; Bush apologizes for protest

WASHINGTON – President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged cooperation in reining in the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea and resolving troubling trade disputes of their own Thursday, but they made little measurable headway in a pomp-filled summit that was infiltrated by a screaming anti-China protester.In a half-day of talks, the watchwords were candor and discussion – not agreement and announcement.The discussions touched on American concerns about Beijing’s human rights record and the global energy impact of the communist giant’s rapidly expanding economy, as well as China’s sensitivity over the status of Taiwan.White House officials stressed the growing sophistication of U.S.-Chinese relations, and the increased personal familiarity between Bush and Hu after five meetings in less than a year, as one of the summit’s achievement.”We will address our differences in a spirit of mutual respect,” Bush said. “We have made progress in building a relationship that is candid and cooperative.”In opening remarks after a majestic arrival ceremony, Hu made clear he did not intend to do much more than reiterate past promises – and he did not.”I have come to enhance dialogues, expand common ground, deepen mutual trust and cooperation and to promote the all-around growth of constructive and cooperative China-U.S. relations,” the Chinese leader said from a sun-splashed podium on the South Lawn. He spoke in Chinese and his remarks were translated.Hu had barely begun his speech when a woman began loudly shouting in Chinese and heavily accented English from a press riser for Bush to stop the Chinese president from persecuting the Falun Gong, a banned religious movement that accuses the Chinese government of torturing and killing its followers. Chinese authorities have denied any mistreatment.Bush leaned over and quietly encouraged his guest to resume talking – “You’re OK,” he said – as the woman’s shouts continued even as Secret Service agents removed her. Hoping to defuse any tensions over the embarrassing incident, Bush later opened the leaders’ Oval Office meetings with a personal apology.”This was unfortunate. I’m sorry it happened,” the president told his guest, according to the White House’s top Asian affairs expert, Dennis Wilder. Terming it only “a momentary blip,” Wilder said Hu was gracious and the matter did not come up again.Identified as Wenyi Wang, she received entry to the event as a journalist. She was charged with disorderly conduct and may also face a charge of intimidating or disrupting foreign officials.Wang’s complaints were no different from those that were voiced all day outside the White House gates – and within earshot of those inside.Falun Gong orchestrated loud protests that drew hundreds to the streets around the White House, only steps from the Blair House government guest quarters where Hu was staying. They banged gongs, waved American and Chinese flags and held banners denouncing Hu as a “Chinese dictator” responsible for genocide and other “crimes in Chinese labor camps and prisons.”Their chants could be heard during the quieter moments of the arrival ceremony. And as Bush feted Hu and nearly 200 others with a formal lunch of Alaskan halibut and fine wine in the pink-and-gold-adorned East Room, the demonstrators were visible through open curtains.The choreography of the day had been planned to give the protocol-conscious Chinese their due as a rising world power without affording Hu the ultimate perk of a “state visit.” For instance, Hu was greeted with the full 21-gun salute, a traditional U.S. military honor guard in colonial dress and a formal luncheon. But he did not rate a glitzy black-tie state dinner, or even the honor of his country’s flags flying beside American ones from the lampposts around the White House compound.One gaffe during the elaborate arrival ceremony threatened the delicate balancing act. Before the playing of the two countries’ national anthems, a White House announcer referred to China as the “Republic of China,” the formal name of Taiwan.Beijing claims sovereignty over the self-governing island, which split from the mainland in 1949, and threatens to use force should Taiwan move toward formal independence. With the United States legally bound to defend Taiwan but officially not in support of independence, Hu indicated that the issue was a major item of discussion for him with Bush.White House officials pronounced the summit a success. But on issue after issue, Bush pressed Hu but came up without any new concrete promises.The United States wants a faster revaluation of China’s tightly controlled currency, which is artificially low so that China’s goods are cheaper and U.S. products have a harder time competing with them.Hu, aware of the growing impatience in Congress with America’s record $202 billion trade deficit with China, offered general promises to address the yawning gap. “We have taken measures and we will continue to take steps to properly resolve the issue,” he said.”He recognizes that a trade deficit with the United States, as substantial as it is, is unsustainable,” Bush said. “There’s been some appreciation in the currency. We would hope there would be more appreciation in the currency.”Wilder acknowledged the Chinese moves so far are “not nearly enough,” but praised Hu for publicly committing to structural reforms that would eventually begin to close the trade gap. Still, the day’s rhetoric was likely to do little to cool calls in Congress for punitive tariffs on Chinese products.”Good words need to be followed by concrete action,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa., author of sanctions legislation. “If not, that’ll only increase the frustration in Congress that China’s not living up to its commitments.”

Support Local Journalism