WASHINGTON, Apr 20 (Reuters) President George W Bush today welcomed Chinese President Hu Jintao with a 21-gun salute and urged him to make trade concessions, improve human rights and exert more influence over North Korea.
''As the relationship between our two nations grows and matures, we can be candid about our disagreements,'' Bush told Hu during a colorful White House South Lawn arrival ceremony marked by full military honours.
As Hu began delivering his response to Bush's welcome, a Chinese woman in the press section began shouting and was escorted away by a uniformed US guard.
''President Hu, your days are numbered. President Bush, make him stop persecuting Falun Gong,'' she yelled, referring to the spiritual meditation movement that is banned in China.
With nuclear negotiations with North Korea at a standstill, Bush asked for Hu's help to get them going again.
''I continue to seek President Hu's advice and cooperation and urge his nation to use its considerable influence with North Korea to make meaningful progress toward a Korean peninsula that is free of nuclear weapons,'' Bush said.
Hu pledged China would try to help resolve nuclear disputes with both Iran and North Korea but insisted on a diplomatic outcome. Bush has refused to rule out military action against Iran, although he says he is currently pursuing diplomacy.
China, Hu said, was ready ''to peacefully resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomatic negotiations.'' On trade, where the US trade deficit with China reached 202 billion dollars last year, Bush called for Chinese steps to allow US companies to compete more efficiently, and specifically to make their currency more flexible.
''Our trade relationship can become even stronger as China adopts policies that allow US companies to compete in China with the same freedom that Chinese companies are able to compete here in the United States,'' he said.
Hu pledged: ''We will continue to advance the reform of the renminbi exchange rate.'' Yesterday he had stood firm against US demands for a significant currency revaluation.
AVOID TAIWAN CONFRONTATION Bush also reaffirmed the United States was committed to a ''one China'' policy and urged all parties to avoid confrontation over Taiwan.
''We oppose unilateral changes in the status quo in the Taiwan Strait by either side. We urge all parties to avoid confrontational or provocative acts and we believe the future of Taiwan should be resolved peacefully,'' Bush said.
Hu responded that China would make every effort for peaceful reunification of China and Taiwan but added, ''We will never allow anyone to make Taiwan secede from China by any means.'' Bush treated the Chinese leader to full military honours and a 21-gun salute, as national anthems played and a fife-and-drum corps paraded on a bright spring day.
But the White House resisted Beijing's request to designate the trip as a state visit and instead of a formal evening banquet, Hu was being treated to a festive luncheon.
REUTERS KD RAI2133