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Obama China visit to build trust

US President Barack Obama's upcoming visit to China marks an "important milestone" in improving trust and respect between Beijing and Washington, a top US diplomat said yesterday.

US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said his meetings in Beijing with senior Chinese officials included arrangements for Obama's visit in November, as well as talks on North Korea and Iran's nuclear programs.

The meetings come ahead of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Pyongyang next week that could see North Korea rejoining six-nation talks on dismantling its nuclear programs in return for economic and diplomatic incentives.

Steinberg, Washington's point man on North Korea, met with officials including Vice President Xi Jinping, State Councilor Dai Bingguo and General Ma Xiaotian, one of the Chinese military's top officials for international affairs.

"In our discussion today, we focused on how we can address some of the key challenges facing the international community, from economic growth to climate change, global public health, nonproliferation, including North Korea and Iran, and combating terrorism," Steinberg said in a written statement issued by the US Embassy.

"We also discussed the upcoming visit of President Obama, which will mark an important milestone in building mutual trust and respect between the people of China and the United States," he said.

Obama is scheduled to visit Shanghai and Beijing on November 15-18 after the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Singapore.

The Chinese premier's visit to North Korea from Sunday through Tuesday comes amid indications from Pyongyang that it is willing to rejoin the stalled disarmament talks after months of boycotting them.

China's Foreign Ministry said Monday that Wen would meet with top North Korean leaders and will attend events commemorating 60 years of diplomatic ties.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said yesterday Wen would sign agreements during his visit in the areas of economy, trade, tourism and education but did not say whether he would directly raise the nuclear issue.


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