Xi Jinping

Xi set for talks at the pentagon

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 February, 2012, 12:00am


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Vice-President Xi Jinping is to visit the Pentagon during his five-day US tour this week 'to discuss the importance of [the Sino-US] military-to-military relationship', the White House revealed on the eve of his arrival.

Also on the agenda are a Valentine's Day meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House, dinner at the residence of Vice-President Joe Biden, a visit to students of Chinese at a Californian school, and potentially the first attendance of a Chinese state leader at an NBA basketball game.

Xi is due to arrive in Washington this afternoon (US time), with his official timetable of activities beginning the following morning, a programme dominated by meetings with Biden.

Biden is scheduled to formally welcome Xi to the White House tomorrow morning, in the first of at least eight engagements the two politicians have planned this week - a fact highlighted by mainland state media in an apparent effort to show Xi will be well-treated on the US soil.

That begins with 'two hours of conversation and exchange' between Xi and Biden - first with senior US cabinet members and top officials, followed by a smaller tete-a-tete with Biden and his closest advisers.

'And then the vice-president [Biden] will walk Vice-President Xi over to the Oval Office for his meeting with President Obama,' Anthony Blinken, Biden's national security adviser, said in a media briefing on the visit released yesterday.

However, White House officials stressed that they would not 'sacrifice the important issues for the sake of having a comfortable visit', adding that recent tensions in Tibet were 'an area of grave concern'.

Later tomorrow, Biden is to host a lunch for his Chinese counterpart, also attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and 'a broad cross-section of prominent Americans from government, business, academia, and the arts', Blinken said.

Xi is then scheduled to visit the Pentagon, in his role of vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, accompanied by US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Daniel Russel, the US government's senior director for Asian affairs, described Xi's Pentagon visit as 'very significant', adding that it 'provides a further opportunity to talk through US strategy with respect to posture as well as to answer any questions that Xi may have'.

Xi would meet up with Biden again later tomorrow afternoon, Blinken said, for a round table discussion with both American and Chinese business leaders and the US Chambers of Commerce, which he described as an 'in-depth discussion of economic trade issues, including areas of real challenge and friction'.

'It's important for the Chinese leadership to hear directly from our business community both the promise but also the problems of doing business with China,' he said.

Xi's schedule tomorrow was due to close with a formal dinner at the vice-president's official residence, the Naval Observatory.

Following meetings with politicians from the US Senate and House of Representatives on Wednesday morning, Xi would deliver a speech to 'a large audience' at his hotel before heading to Iowa, Blinker said.

In Iowa, Xi is to make a pit stop in Muscatine, a town of 23,000 inhabitants on the state's eastern border with Illinois which he visited on his first trip to the US in 1985 as part of a delegation on agricultural issues.

Blinken said that Xi would be accompanied in Iowa by US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Gary Locke, the US ambassador to China, and the visit would involve discussions on agricultural exchanges at the state capital, Des Moines.

He added that Xi 'may also pay a brief visit to a farm' on Thursday before heading to Los Angeles.

In California, Xi is due to meet up with Biden again, with the pair to attend at least three events on Friday, including the school visit, a lunch with LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and California Governor Jerry Brown, and a 'small private dinner' to conclude the trip.

Blinken said Biden's decision to travel to Los Angeles was 'reciprocating' Xi's 'gracious' move to 'spend a considerable amount of time' with the US vice-president in Chengdu , Sichuan province, during Biden's August visit to China.

Although the White House statement made no mention of the NBA, the China News Agency reported Xi planned to attend a basketball game.