Obama, Hu Vow Increased Cooperation

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao stand together during an official South Lawn arrival ceremony for Hu at the White House in Washington, January 19, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)

U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, vowed to increase cooperation between their two nations Wednesday, while acknowledging differences still persist.

Both leaders spoke Wednesday at a formal ceremony welcoming President Hu to the White House.

President Obama stressed that both nations have an enormous stake in each other's success and said nations will be more prosperous and secure when working together. He also noted the need to uphold human rights.

Mr. Hu said the U.S. and China share broad common interests and important common responsibilities and should seek common ground in spite of differences.

He said the nations' cooperation should be based on mutual respect and mutual benefit.

The relationship between the U.S. and China has been plagued by differences on issues including North Korea, human rights and the massive U.S. trade deficit with China.

On Tuesday, Mr. Hu joined President Obama at the White House for a private dinner. Only two top aides to each leader were present, and there were no note-takers in order to allow a more candid discussion.

Several hundred protesters gathered during the dinner in a nearby park to demand independence for Tibet and greater attention to human rights in China.

Mr. Hu said upon his arrival Tuesday that he has come to the United States to "enhance mutual trust, promote friendship," and "deepen cooperation."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an interview with NBC that the Obama administration is looking for as much common ground as possible with China, while still standing up for U.S. values and interests.

Wednesday's events will feature all the pomp and ceremony for a formal state visit, beginning with the elaborate arrival ceremony at the South Lawn of the White House and concluding with a black tie dinner.

But in between, the two leaders and their most senior officials are expected to spend hours grappling with some of the toughest problems confronting their nations, the world's two largest economic powers.

U.S. officials have said Mr. Obama will not shy away from challenging Mr. Hu on the most sensitive issues, including human rights, the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea, and rising U.S. anger over the value of China's currency, the yuan.

Lawmakers from both major U.S. parties are seeking to punish China for what they consider currency manipulation designed to secure an unfair trade advantage. But Mr. Hu said in an interview this week with U.S. newspapers that he sees no need for a change in China's currency policies.

China's official Xinhua news agency said Wednesday the leaders are also expected to announce new cooperation projects dealing with trade and the economy, energy, environmental protection, infrastructure development, people-to-people exchanges, and science and technology.

A highlight of the visit will come Wednesday afternoon when the two leaders conduct a news conference. U.S. officials say Mr. Hu agreed only at their insistence to the news conference, where the leaders will take two questions from Chinese reporters and two from the American press corps.

On Thursday, Mr. Hu will meet with leaders of the U.S. Congress and deliver a major address to the U.S.-China Business Council before traveling to Chicago, America's third largest city. There, he will highlight cultural contacts between the countries and attend a contract-signing ceremony.