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Former President Says US-China Relations Key to Peace, Prosperity


Former President George H.W. Bush has praised the development of U.S.-China relations, calling them the most important this century for world peace and prosperity. While on a visit to Beijing, Mr. Bush commended China's role in international affairs, but warned that nuclear security concerns remain. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

The 83-year-old former president says that U.S.-China relations have come a long way since China opened up to the world and became a market economy.

President George H.W. Bush, who spoke at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, served in the 1970s as the top U.S. diplomat in Beijing.

"Almost 60 years ago China and the United States embarked on two different economic and political paths, which quickly led to estrangement and to alienation," the former president said. "And, today I know I speak for our president and many more in the United States when I say we welcome the chance to move in the same direction and make up for the lost opportunities of the past."

Mr. Bush said he believes Chinese leaders want to play a constructive role on the world stage, and as an example noted China's leading role in the Indonesian tsunami relief efforts.

He called U.S.-China cooperation in negotiating with North Korea over its nuclear programs "indispensable," and praised China as host of the talks.

But he said the United States expects certain efforts from Beijing in discouraging the spread of nuclear weapons.

"We look to China to exert its influence on North Korea so that North Korea lives up to its commitment," he said. " At the same time we have reached a decisive moment for China to take a tough stand with us against Iran's nuclear program."

Mr. Bush says North Korea needs to be held to its agreement to get rid of its nuclear programs. But, he says it is a myth that Chinese leaders can control North Korea.

Mr. Bush described the U.S.-China economic relationship as "breathtaking," pointing out China is expected to become the third-largest export market for U.S. goods this year.

He warned that China needs to do more to alleviate the large trade imbalance or risk protectionist measures in the United States.