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China's Hu lands in U.S. on key trip

Written by: Staff
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SEATTLE, Apr 18 (Reuters) Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in the United States today bearing business deals and words intended to allay US fears about China's ambitions, but he faced a US government eager for concrete results.

The highlight of Hu's four-day trip will be a summit on Thursday with US President George W Bush But he first touched down in Seattle, where he was to tour a Boeing Co production plant. The plane company's business has boomed on Chinese orders.

Hu, whose entourage includes his foreign and trade ministers, was also due to dine at the 100 million dollars home of Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft Corp. and the world's richest man.

In Seattle's Chinatown district, many store fronts hung Chinese and US flags side by side to welcome the visitor, but police also expected Falun Gong protesters to make their presence felt. The group, which promotes spiritual meditation, has been officially suppressed in China since 1999.

Ahead of the visit, China sought to quell US trade complaints by signing contracts worth 16.2 billion dollars while Vice Premier Wu Yi visited the United States last week.

''Hu's trip is set to clear US minds of doubts and suspicion about China,'' the state-run China Daily said in an editorial today.

But US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick said Beijing had been ''agonizingly slow'' in meeting US demands to reform its currency. US officials say the yuan is undervalued, making Chinese exports artificially cheap.

Hu is seeking to calm US audiences not only about trade, but also China's long-range ambitions.

In Seattle, Hu was to meet US and Chinese academics, including Zheng Bijian, a long-time Communist Party adviser who has promoted the idea that China's ''peaceful rise'' need not provoke severe conflict with Washington.

STATE VISIT? In Washington, D C, Hu will have lunch at the White House, although not the state banquet China has pressed for. China insists Hu's trip is a fully fledged state visit but the White House has said it is not.

Analysts in both countries have said the White House meeting is unlikely to produce major breakthroughs on trade and diplomatic strains, which include differing approaches to the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.

''I intend of course to bring the subject up of Iranian ambitions to have a nuclear weapon with Hu Jintao this Thursday,'' Bush said at the White House. ''We'll continue to work diplomatically to get this problem solved.'' Each leader will be looking for general commitments that address his own concerns. Bush has singled out the 202 billion dollars US trade deficit with China as his sorest point.

Bush also has plans to press Hu to do more to stamp out commercial piracy of US patents, brands and copyrights. And he has said he wants China to loosen currency controls faster to help balance trade flows.

But Chinese officials have said recently that their country must move at its own pace and will not be pushed by Washington into sudden currency and trade changes.

Vice Premier Wu said it was ''unscientific'' to blame China alone for the bilateral trade gap.

Hu wants to ensure stable relations with Washington as he prepares for a major Communist Party Congress in 2007 and then Beijing's 2008 Olympics, Chinese academics and diplomats said.

He also wants Bush to offer some assurance that the United States will give no leeway to Taiwan's independence-leaning President Chen Shui-bian, Chinese analysts said. Beijing says the self-ruled island must accept reunification with the mainland after over half a century of separation.

After his visit to the capital, Hu will go to Yale University to give a speech on China's ''peaceful development.'' REUTERS PG PM0046

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