Obama meets Hu after blunt words on North Korea
US President Barack Obama meets his Chinese counterpart for talks expected to focus on North Korea's upcoming rocket launch.
SEOUL - US President Barack Obama met his Chinese counterpart Monday for talks expected to focus on North Korea's upcoming rocket launch, a day after a blunt appeal to Beijing to get tougher with Pyongyang.
Obama and President Hu Jintao held talks before the start of a nuclear terrorism summit in South Korea which has been overshadowed by the North's planned launch in mid-April.
Obama told Hu in introductory remarks the situation in North Korea and Iran is "of great importance to us", and that China and the United States have a common interest in nuclear non-proliferation.
The nuclear-armed North says its launch will only put a satellite into orbit for peaceful purposes.
The United States and its allies say it will be staging a missile test in violation of UN resolutions. They also suspect that Iran's uranium enrichment programme is geared towards making a nuclear bomb.
The US leader said he and Hu also need to discuss Sudan and other political issues, as well as the potential benefits of bilateral trade "in accordance with international rules and norms".
The longstanding dispute over China's currency, which Washington says is kept artificially low to boost exports, could flare up again as Obama seeks re-election in November.
In their 11th meeting the two leaders were attempting to keep ties stable despite domestic political turbulence in both nations, but North Korea and trade differences were exerting a strain.
Obama made clear in unusually direct language on Sunday that he did not believe China's approach to its wayward neighbour and ally was bearing fruit. He suggested it was time for a change.
It was not working for China to turn "a blind eye to deliberate provocations, trying to paper over these not just provocative words but extraordinarily provocative acts that violate international norms", Obama said.
How China communicated its concerns to North Korea "should probably reflect the fact that the approach they've taken over the last several decades hasn't led to a fundamental shift in North Korea's behaviour", he said.
Washington has frequently called on Beijing to rein in Pyongyang. China is the North's sole major ally and its biggest trade partner and aid provider.
Hu and Obama are increasingly preoccupied by domestic political calendars, with a new generation of leaders poised to assume power in China and Obama's quickening re-election bid at home.
Obama must watch his flank as his likely Republican foe Mitt Romney lacerates his policy towards Beijing, seeking to exploit a perception among blue-collar voters that unfair Chinese trade practices are costing US jobs.
Hu entered the Obama meeting against a backdrop of intrigue ahead of the 18th Communist Party Congress later this year, expected to enshrine Xi Jinping as China's next leader.
Their meeting came after China's Communist Party leadership was rocked by a rare scandal. Bo Xilai, leader of the Chongqing metropolis, was sacked after a key aide reportedly tried to defect to the United States.
"I think the summit meeting is very important for both countries, especially on the domestic side, given the election year in the US and the political earthquake surrounding the removal of Bo Xilai," said Zhu Feng, professor of international relations at Peking University.
"There needs to be an exchange of views on how bilateral relations can stay the same without too many disruptions over election politics and domestic factors," he said.
Both sides say they want to work together on economic and security issues.
But disputes over trade, frank talk over China's territorial spats with its neighbours in the South China Sea, and differences on Syria's crackdown on dissent and Iran's nuclear programme have eroded mutual trust.
Obama emerged from his last meeting with Hu in Hawaii in November showing clear signs of frustration, saying China must now act like a "grown-up" and play by global trading rules.
This month, Washington signalled that it would lodge a complaint with the World Trade Organisation against China's curbs on the export of "rare earth" elements, which are vital to the US technology industry.