WASHINGTON-- Vice President Dick Cheney on Wednesday held a get-acquainted session with the man expected to be China's next president. Candid discussions were likely on human rights, Taiwan and other troublesome issues.
Cheney, on crutches because of a foot injury, greeted Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. Both men smiled warmly and shook hands, then sat facing each other from opposite sides of a long conference table, their aides seated around them.
Cheney served as official host for Hu's visit. The Chinese leader was to have a 20-minute audience later Wednesday with President Bush. White House aides said Hu was not expected to present an extensive agenda, a nod of respect for China's current president.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush hoped to thank Hu for China's cooperation in the anti-terrorism campaign and express a desire for "building a constructive, cooperative relationship."
Wednesday's meetings at the White House also were not likely to dwell specifically on the case of Yang Jianli, a U.S.-based activist detained this week on his first return visit to China in 13 years, Bush administration officials said.
Instead, U.S. officials were to pressure China more generally to release individual detainees and encourage systematic reform, a senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Many of Hu's meetings during his visit to Washington marked a first opportunity for U.S. officials and lawmakers to meet the probable successor to China's president, Jiang Zemin. Bush met briefly with Hu during his February visit to Beijing.
Cheney, who had not previously met Hu, was to have lunch with him privately at the vice presidential residence. Bush was receiving Hu at the Oval Office in the afternoon.
Hu also becomes on Wednesday the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit the Pentagon, at a time when military cooperation between the United States and China is increasing slowly after a long slide to nearly nothing.
The Chinese leader dined Tuesday evening with Secretary of State Colin Powell at the State Department. Spokesman Richard Boucher said Wednesday that Powell underscored the importance of protecting human rights in China. The two leaders also stressed the need for stability on the Korean peninsula, including a North-South dialogue, Boucher said.
Hu raised the issue of Taiwan. Powell reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to a one-China policy, Boucher said. A senior official said the overall discussion was positive and constructive and was straightforward on issues of concern to the two countries.
Relations between China and the United States got off to a bad start during Bush's first year as president with the collision last spring of a U.S. spy plane with a Chinese fighter jet and Bush's approval of a substantial arms package for Taiwan, which China claims as a rogue province.
Senior Bush administration officials said China has cooperated well in the war against terror, sharing information and acting to control the flow of money to terrorists.
U.S.-China military cooperation still lags, however, behind the two countries' financial, trade and political ties, a second administration official acknowledged Tuesday.
The United States is wants reciprocal military contacts that are transparent and "serves to diminish suspicions," the official said.
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