Xi likely to meet Obama during European tour

Both presidents will attend global Nuclear Security Summit being hosted in The Hague later this month during Xi's four-nation visit

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 March, 2014, 5:09am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 March, 2014, 5:46am

President Xi Jinping is likely to meet US President Barack Obama during his first presidential visit to Europe at the end of the month.

Both presidents will attend the Nuclear Security Summit 2014 in the Netherlands, and it is possible he will meet Xi on the meeting's sidelines. Fifty-three national leaders are scheduled to attend the summit and discuss issues such as proliferation and nuclear terrorism.

Obama launched the first summit in Washington in 2010. The second was held in Seoul in 2012 and this year's meeting is being hosted in The Hague on March 24-25.

Chen Zhimin, a professor at Fudan University's School of International Relations and Public Affairs, said such an encounter would afford an opportunity to review developments in Sino-US affairs since the two presidents last met in California in June.

"Important international issues like the problems in East Asia and Ukraine might be discussed if the two have a chance to meet," Chen said.

Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang yesterday made no mention of Obama, but said Xi would pay state visits to the Netherlands, France, Germany and Belgium from March 22 to April 1, at the invitation of the four countries' leaders.

Xi's visit reflects the Chinese government's commitment to the relationship
Chen Zhimin, Fudan University

This year marks the 50th anniversary of formal ties between China and France. Xi told visiting French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in February the two countries would mark the anniversary with large celebrations.

"On the political side, China and France need to boost mutual trust. France plays an active role in international politics and diplomacy. Both countries could strengthen bilateral co-operation on regional and global issues," Chen said.

"China's economic co-operation with France has lagged behind [other European countries]. It will require effort from both countries to push it forwards."

Xi will also visit the headquarters of the UN Educational Scientific and Culture Organisation in Paris on March 27 and the European Union in Brussels from March 31 to April 1. Xi's visit to the EU will be the first by a Chinese president, the EU said.

He is due to meet Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, comprised of the heads of state of the 28 EU members, and Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU.

Chen said the meeting reflected the importance the Chinese government attached to the Sino-EU relationship, which would traditionally be handled by Premier Li Keqiang.

"Previously, the premier took care of the Sino-EU relationship. Xi's visit reflects the Chinese government's commitment to injecting greater momentum into the relationship," Chen said.

Xi will also deliver a speech on Sino-EU relations at the College of Europe in Bruges on April 1.