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August 23, 2009

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Obama visit set, says new US envoy

US President Barack Obama will pay his first visit to China in mid-November, US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman said yesterday, a day after he arrived in the country.

Huntsman gave no specific dates, but Obama is scheduled to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Singapore on November 14-15.

"Much is happening in US-China relations this year. President Obama is going to be visiting in the middle of November," Huntsman told reporters yesterday afternoon.

Neither Beijing nor Washington has yet announced the date for Obama's visit, although both countries issued a statement after their presidents' first meeting in London in April, saying Obama will visit China in the second half of this year.

Huntsman delivered some of his comments in fluent Mandarin from his days as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan.

The new ambassador characterized the US-China relationship as "the most important in the world."

"By the end of the year, we should be in better shape than ever before between the United States and China," said the 49-year-old Republican,

He was flanked by his wife and three daughters, who also arrived in Beijing on Friday night.

Preparing for Obama's visit will be one of the first tasks of Huntsman's new tenure as ambassador.

He was nominated by Obama to serve as ambassador to China in May and confirmed by the US Senate in early August.

"I am hopeful, confident that the US-China relationship will be stronger than ever before," he said, stressing both countries anticipate the potential challenges they may face in building a better tomorrow.

Huntsman's China experience started in early 1980s when he worked as a White House staff assistant in the Reagan administration and visited Beijing.

Since then, he has led trade missions to China and adopted a Chinese girl from eastern China's Yangzhou City in 1999. The girl was also present at Huntsman's press meeting yesterday.

Huntsman had served as US ambassador to Singapore before and was governor of Utah from 2005 until his resignation to serve as an ambassador to China on August 11.

His predecessor, Clark Randt, was the longest-serving US ambassador to China in the 30 years since diplomatic ties were forged in 1979.

As ambassador, Huntsman said the top of his priorities would be "helping lay the foundation for sustainable growth in the region and the global economy."

He called for both nations to "transcend disagreements, difficulties and challenges," and work for the "prosperity of our people, peace and security on both sides of the Pacific."

The focus of his tenure would be taking the US-China relations to new heights, Huntsman said. New heights, as the ambassador said, specifically referred to US-China joint efforts in climate change, energy, regional security and the global economy.

"If we are going to tackle all of those successfully, by definition, we will raise our relationship to new heights," Huntsman said.


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