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Presidents Bush, Hu Pledge Cooperation; No Agreements Reached

President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged cooperation on a wide range of international issues, but announced no concrete agreements. In a meeting they described as friendly, both leaders downplayed their differences.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger lauded U.S.-China relations in his introductory remarks for Chinese President Hu Jintao's speech in Washington Thursday night.

"There is no more important relationship than that between China and the United States," he said.

The Chinese leader, in his only public event during his four-day U.S. visit, used the opportunity to emphasize that China is determined to develop peacefully. He said his meeting Thursday with President Bush went well.

"I believe the meeting today was a very productive one," said Mr. Hu. "And I certainly look forward to a future China-U.S. relationship that is more stable, more mature and developed on a sounder track."

Earlier in the day, President Bush welcomed the Chinese leader to the White House, with full military honors.

"The United States welcomes the emergence of a China that is peaceful and prosperous, and that supports international institutions," said Mr. Bush. "As stakeholders in the international system, our two nations share many strategic interests."

Some of the areas of agreement include joint efforts to combat avian flu and cooperation to develop alternatives to fossil fuels. But, the discussions before and during a lunch meeting focused on more contentious issues, including trade, Iran's nuclear program and human rights.

Following the meeting, President Bush said that, although there were no major developments to announce, he and the Chinese leader had what he described as "candid" and "constructive" discussions.

"I enjoy my visits with President Hu," he said. "He tells me what he thinks, and I tell him what I think, and we do so with respect."

For his part, the Chinese leader called the talks pragmatic, and said both countries share common strategic interests. Mr. Hu acknowledged tensions over the U.S.-China trade imbalance, which added up to more than $200 billion last year.

"As for the differences or even frictions between the two countries in this regard, we both believe that they may be properly resolved through consultations on an equal footing," he said.

The pomp and ceremony was marred by hundreds of demonstrators, many of whom demanded greater religious freedom and human rights in China. The noisy protesters could be heard just outside the White House gates.

During Mr. Hu's remarks at the welcoming ceremony, a woman standing in an area reserved for media shouted accusations that Beijing is persecuting the Falun Gong movement. The spiritual group is outlawed in China. Mr. Bush later apologized to Mr. Hu for the incident.

Another sensitive issue that was highlighted was Taiwan, an independently-governed island that Beijing considers part of Chinese territory and has vowed to retake by force, if necessary.

Speaking to reporters at the Oval Office, President Hu said he stressed to President Bush how important reunification is for his country.

"We have the utmost sincerity, and we will do our utmost with all sincerity to strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification," he said. "This being said, we will by no means allow Taiwan independence."

The United States has promised to help Taiwan defend itself if attacked by mainland China.

From Washington, President Hu travels to President Bush's alma mater, Yale University, Friday, where he will deliver what is expected to be a major policy speech.