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Last updated: May 20, 2013 11:49 pm
Barack Obama will meet Xi Jinping next month for the first time since his Chinese counterpart took office to try to manage their countries’ rivalry through a stronger relationship between the presidents.
The leaders will meet for two days at a luxury California ranch for private talks aimed at trying to establish common ground after an awkward three-year period which has demonstrated many of their competing interests.
The White House said the talks, to be held at the Annenberg estate in Rancho Mirage, California, would “discuss ways to enhance co-operation, while constructively managing our differences”.
While the US believes that China has pushed its maritime claims in Asia more aggressively in recent years, many in Beijing believe the Obama administration’s “pivot” to the region is an attempt to contain China’s rise.
US officials say Mr Xi, who took control of the Chinese Communist party at the end of last year and became president in March, is a more relaxed and confident figure than his predecessor Hu Jintao, with whom Mr Obama had an often stilted relationship, although he has also hinted at more nationalist sympathies. Obama administration officials say they want to explore what Mr Xi means when he calls for a “new type of great power relationship”.
The Annenberg estate, which advertises itself as a west coast version of Camp David, was a popular retreat for both presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon.
The White House announced the trip as Mr Obama was meeting Thein Sein, who became the first Myanmar president in nearly 50 years to visit Washington. Mr Obama praised the Myanmar leader for putting the country “down a path of both political and economic reform”.
Mr Obama said he expressed concern about violence against Muslims in the country. “The displacement of people, the violence directed toward them needs to stop,” he said.
The US president also said they discussed Mr Thein Sein’s intention to release more political prisoners, institutionalise political reform and rule of law and work to end ethnic conflict. “As President (Thein) Sein is the first to admit, this is a long journey and there is still much work to be done,” he said.
Meanwhile, China has tried to paper over cracks in its relations with India, saying the two countries have reached a “strategic consensus” during the visit of Li Keqiang, the premier, to New Delhi – a visit that was in doubt until two weeks ago because of a dispute over their joint Himalayan border.
Mr Li, making India his first foreign destination as China’s premier, repeatedly referred to the “strategic” relations between two countries with ancient civilisations and 2.5bn inhabitants that together make up more than a third of the world’s population.
“Without the common development of China and India, Asia won’t become strong and the world won’t become a better place,” Mr Li said.
However, Manmohan Singh, Indian prime minister, made plain that India was still aggrieved by the incursion in April of a group of Chinese soldiers who crossed the disputed so-called line of actual control and set up camp 18km inside territory previously regarded as being under Indian supervision. The stand-off lasted three weeks.
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