BEIJING – China’s president will attend a nuclear security summit in Washington this month, signaling a fresh start between the superpowers amid a chill in relations over Beijing’s unhappiness with U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and a meeting with the Dalai Lama.
China has also indicated a new willingness to discuss sanctioning Iran over its nuclear program, a U.S. official said, marking progress on another major dispute bedeviling ties.
It was unclear prior to Thursday’s announcement whether President Hu Jintao would attend the U.S.-hosted event because of a number of contentious issues that have soured American-Sino ties this year.
Hu will stop in Washington for the April 12-13 summit on his way to Brazil, Venezuela and Chile.
“The nuclear security summit will mainly discuss the threat posed by nuclear terrorism and the corresponding measures of countries and the international community,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a news briefing Thursday.
He called it an important multilateral meeting, and said China hoped it would “yield positive results.”
Qin would not say if Hu would meet President Barack Obama for bilateral talks during his visit. The spokesman said the U.S. and China shared a key diplomatic relationship, and maintaining healthy ties depended on “respecting each other.”
Hu’s trip was billed as specifically tackling nuclear issues. If all goes smoothly in the coming months, Washington plans to play host to Hu again in the fall with all the pomp of a state visit.
The Foreign Ministry called in U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman on Thursday morning to tell him Hu would attend the Washington summit – a positive message after weeks of being summoned for harangues over American policies.
“Where have we been in the last few months? We’ve been in the penalty box,” Huntsman told a meeting of U.S. business executives later Thursday. He predicted relations would now steadily improve.