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Obama to visit China in mid-November

The new U.S. ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman Jr., confirms what had been widely rumored. Huntsman met with journalists the day after arriving in Beijing.

August 23, 2009|Barbara Demick

BEIJING — President Obama plans to make his first visit to China in mid-November, U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. announced Saturday during his first meeting in Beijing with journalists.

"After the president has been able to sit down with many of the good leaders here in China, I am hopeful . . . the U.S.-China relationship will be stronger than ever before," Huntsman said.

In April, Obama accepted an invitation from President Hu Jintao to visit China this year, but the specifics of the trip were not announced. The president already had planned to attend the Nov. 14-15 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Singapore.

Huntsman said the global economy, energy and climate change, as well North Korea, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, would be likely topics at the meetings.

Responding to a question, Huntsman called for a regular dialogue about human rights.

"I've always believed the human rights dialogue needs to be regularized and integrated into our broader discussions, so it isn't just a once-a-year discussion but an ongoing dialogue that is meaningful and reflects our values as a country," he said.

Huntsman, who arrived in China the night before, chatted with journalists in the front yard of the diplomatic residence in downtown Beijing. The Republican former governor of Utah was flanked by his wife and three of his seven children. He invited journalists into the residence to hear his oldest daughter, Mary Anne, a pianist, perform a piece by Rachmaninoff.

The ambassador, whose name is frequently mentioned as a GOP presidential candidate, spoke to journalists in both English and Chinese, which he learned as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan. Chatting afterward with reporters in Chinese, he faltered only once, turning to an aide to ask how to say the word "transcend."

As in: "I hope we will be able to transcend our disagreements and focus on peace and prosperity."

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barbara.demick@latimes.com

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