President Hu Jintao will visit the United States next week to strengthen bilateral ties amid frictions over trade and the renminbi's exchange rate, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.
Hu's four-day US trip, starting from April 18, will take him to Seattle and Washington D.C., ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at a regular news briefing in Beijing.
"He is expected to meet his US counterpart George W. Bush and other senior officials for in-depth discussions on bilateral relations and other international or regional issues of common concern," the spokesman said.
He added that the president is also expected to deliver a speech at Yale University in Connecticut.
Following the US trip, Hu will travel to Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Nigeria and Kenya for official visits which will last until April 29, Liu said.
Hu's first visit to the White House since taking office comes amid mounting pressure from the US side to take action on China's surging trade surplus as well as revaluation of its currency.
"China and the United States do have differences on trade and some other issues," Liu said. "We are going to move ahead while expanding mutual trust and improving relations during this visit."
Last week, a trade mission led by Vice-Premier Wu Yi signed contracts worth US$4.4 billion for made-in-America software, autos and soybeans a move widely regarded as a way to ease tensions in bilateral trade.
Hu had planned a visit to the United States last September but had to postpone it after Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf coast.
Referring to the controversial issue of human rights, Liu said differences between China and other countries including the United States should be resolved "on the basis of equality and mutual respect; and through dialogue."
Analysts said Hu's milestone visit would help promote the steady growth of Sino-US relations as direct dialogue between the two leaders is conducive to increasing mutual understanding and removing differences.
Ding Yuanhong, a retired diplomat who formerly served as China's ambassador to the United Nations, said the trade imbalance and the renminbi exchange rate have created difficulties in Sino-US relations.
"The summit meeting will help increase understanding of these problems so that they can be resolved gradually," Ding said.
" I believe China will also urge the United States to clarify its stance on the Taiwan question," Ding said.
He said Beijing should make Washington understand that Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian is a trouble-maker and his pro-"independence" activities must be checked to maintain cross-Straits stability.