China’s Xi Jinping in closely-watched visit to the US

Vice-President Xi JinpingThe man likely to become China’s next leader, Vice-President Xi Jinping, has begun a closely watched visit to the United States.

In comments to a US newspaper ahead of his trip, Mr Xi sounded a note of warning to the US over its military stance in the Pacific.He said scaling up military activity was not what countries in the region wanted to see.He is due to meet President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday.”This will be an opportunity for the leaders of both countries to really sit down and talk about our differences,” said US Ambassador to China Gary Locke after greeting Mr Xi.

He added that the presidents would also be able to “really focus on the common interests that both the US and China have”.Mr Xi, 58, is widely expected to succeed President Hu Jintao, who must retire as head of the Communist Party later this year and from the presidency in 2013.His visit comes a year after Mr Hu’s trip to Washington, which he referred to in his comments published in The Washington Post as written, translated answers provided by the Chinese government in response to the newspaper’s questions. He is making the week-long trip as a guest of US Vice-President Joe Biden, who made a high-profile visit to China late last year.

Mr Xi also will meet Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. On Wednesday, he will travel to Iowa to meet his hosts from his first visit to the US in 1985 when he was a county official.He is also scheduled to visit a farm in Iowa on Thursday before flying to to Los Angeles, California, to meet business leaders there.As well as comments focusing on the US role in the Pacific, Mr Xi said that what has happened over the last 40 years “tells us that a sound and stable China-US relationship is crucial for both countries”.Frictions and differences’ Correspondents say the US-China relationship has become an increasingly delicate one over a series of security and economic issues.

Washington has been putting pressure on Beijing over the value of its currency and turning the heat up on what it has called unfair trade practices.In his comments, Mr Xi emphasised that China had taken ”active steps” to address these concerns.”Frictions and differences are hardly avoidable in our economic and trade interactions,” he said.”We must not allow frictions and differences to undermine the larger interests of our business cooperation.”

China, on the other hand, has voiced concern over the US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region and displeasure over arms sales to Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province.China and the US, Mr Xi said, had ”converging interests” in the region and there was ”ample space” for both in the Pacific Ocean.

“We also hope that the United States will fully respect and accommodate the major interest and legitimate concerns of Asia-Pacific countries,” he wrote.Mr Xi’s trip also comes amidst increased tension over protests and tightened security in Tibet.Human rights activists staged a protest outside the White House, carrying banners that read “Tibet will be free”.Mr Xi is also scheduled to visit Ireland and Turkey, following the US trip. – BBC