Xi, Obama pledge cooperation; joke about US first lady

Updated: 2014-03-25 05:01

By Wu Jiao in Hague, the Netherlands and Zhao Huanxin and Pu Zhendong in Beijing (chinadaily.com.cn)

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When Chinese President Xi Jinping met US President Barack Obama ahead of the Nuclear Security Summit on Monday in The Hague, they pledged to increase cooperation between the two countries and joked about first lady Michelle Obama.

In their more than one hour and a half meeting, Xi mentioned Mrs. Obama's trip to China, where she arrived in Beijing on Thursday for a weeklong tour of the country.

"Before arriving in the Netherlands, my wife and I met and had pleasant talks with your wife Michelle, your mother-in-law Ms Robinson and daughters Malia and Sasha,'' Xi told Obama hours before the start of the summit. "They are visiting China, and I believe theirs is a friendly, and unforgettable trip."

And he had a message for the US president from his wife.

When their meeting in Beijing last week was over, Xi said Mrs. Obama had asked him to "formally convey her best regards" to (Barack) Obama.

Obama thanked Xi and his wife "for being such a gracious host to Michelle for her first visit to China".

Obama joked that his wife "also played some table tennis, although I think this was not the high level ping pong diplomacy that we saw in the past."

On relations between the world's two biggest economies, Xi told Obama that "China is willing to work with the United States to keep the two nations on the right path toward building a new type of major-country relations."

The Chinese leader said he appreciated a similar commitment from the US in a letter he received recently from Obama.

Xi added that he agreed with Obama's comments in the letter that China-US cooperation is beneficial for the two countries to promote shared interests and to deal with common challenges.

Beijing will remain committed to the position of non-confrontational actions, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, Xi said.

"We adopt a more positive attitude, more vigorous actions to strengthen cooperation with the United States and also effectively manage our difference and sensitivity to make sure the relations to continue to move forwards in a steady and healthy fashion," Xi said.

Obama said the US has no intention of damaging China's stability or containing China's development, and instead it supports China's reforms, according to a press release issued by the Chinese foreign ministry after the meeting.

Obama also said that the US is willing to handle the frictions in bilateral ties through constructive ways.

"The two countries not only work on issues of mutual interest and concern, but are also able to work through frictions that exist in their relations such as human rights, or dealing with maritime issues in the South China Sea and the Pacific region in a way that is constructive and hopefully will lead to resolutions and … solutions for all parties," Obama said.

Obama added that he believes ultimately that by working together, China and the US can help to strengthen international law and respect for the sovereignty of nations.

Besides, both Xi and Obama spoke positively about the development of military ties between China and the US, agreeing to strengthen military dialogue and exchanges between the two countries. The two leaders also vowed to stand against all types of terrorism and continue enhancing counter-terrorism cooperation.

Experts said that frequent meetings between Chinese and US leaders at bilateral and multilateral gatherings help to achieve common goals within the framework of a "new type of major country relationship".

"The US has responded vaguely to the concept that China proposed last year, so the two countries need to take every opportunity to communicate, dispel misunderstanding and expand the concept's connotations" said Su Hao, a professor of Asia-Pacific studies at China Foreign Affairs University.

Teng Jianqun, a researcher of US studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said Sino-US relations have been upgraded in many aspects, including politically and militarily, since June when Xi and Obama met in California.

"Leaders of the two countries have established positive working and personal ties, especially considering US first lady Michelle Obama is currently touring China," Teng said.

Analysts also said austere situations regionally and internationally call for more interaction and consultation between Beijing and Washington.

"China has moved toward the center of the international arena with significantly improved national power over recent years, but the country has not yet been able to assume the role as a real world leader," Teng said. "China and the US will have to cooperate in order to address many global issues, such as anti-terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation."

Su said that escalating tensions in Ukraine and the Middle East have left Washington in a very awkward position. "The US would welcome China playing a more constructive role on these issues."

In addition to Obama, Xi will meet with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on his four-country European trip, which started on Saturday and ends in Belgium on April 1.