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Iran, North Korea at top of the agenda during Bush-Hu meeting today

By Staff
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Washington, Apr 20 (UNI) Nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea will top the agenda during President George Bush's talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao later today in the White House.

According to media reports here, US administration officials believe the key to these issues and other overseas problems may lie in Beijing, a reflection of the pivotal position China has come to play on the international stage.

China, beset by domestic problems at home and eager for stability overseas, has long resisted playing a leading role in foreign policy. But in the past year, the Bush administration has pressed China to shed its traditional neutrality and take a more aggressive stance against governments that US officials believe could potentially threaten US interests and, more broadly, the international system, says the Washington Post.

''In both Iran and North Korea, China has a very serious role to play, and in some ways, is the pivot for whether we are successful in dealing with those problems,'' said former senior director for Asia policy at the White House and now senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Michael J Green.

''Mr Hu will be under some pressure to say something or to signal, not only domestically here but to those countries, that China's patience is wearing thin,'' he added.

Besides providing help on Iran and North Korea, China could assist in a range of other administration priorities, including ending the deadly conflict in Sudan's Darfur region and putting pressure on the military dictatorship in Burma.

But Chinese support for US goals has thus far fallen short of the administration's expectations, in part because China's urgent energy needs have often trumped any concerns about the unsavory nature of other governments, the Post report said.

''While they recognise they are a growing international force, I believe the Chinese of today are pretty absorbed with their domestic development,'' Deputy Secretary of State Robert B Zoellick, the administration's point person on China, told a small group of reporters here last week.

''Will the China of 10 to 15 years from now have a similar view? I can't say,'' he added.

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