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Chinese President Begins International Tour - 2003-05-21

Chinese President Hu Jintao next week kicks off an international tour that will include talks with President Bush over economic and strategic issues. In his overseas first trip since taking office, Mr. Hu also will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

President Hu Jintao and President Bush are to hold talks in Russia or France on the sidelines of major international meetings. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Guchang says both sides want the meeting, but have not yet worked out the details.

The two leaders will be together in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the end of this month, and in France during the meeting of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations a few days later. China is not a member of the G8, but Mr. Hu will meet with leaders of G8 nations on the sidelines of the meeting.

Vice Foreign Minister Liu says the talks with Mr. Bush and other foreign leaders will "inevitably" include the international dispute over North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

China is North Korea's most important ally, and Washington has been encouraging Beijing to press North Korea to give up its programs to build nuclear weapons, which violate several international accords Pyongyang has signed.

Mr. Hu also is likely to bring up the issue of farm trade in his talks. On Wednesday, China's state media complained that farm subsidies in the United States and other Western countries "distort international trade" and could damage the World Trade Organization's efforts to promote free trade in agriculture.

Mr. Hu begins his four-nation trip on May 26. He will visit Mongolia, Kazakhstan, France and Russia before returning to Beijing on June 5.

In Russia, he will talk with President Putin about the SARS health crisis. Russian leaders are concerned that the disease, which was first reported in China late last year, could cross the long border between the two countries.

Vice Minister Liu says President Hu, his delegation, and even his wife are undergoing chest x-rays, blood tests, injections, temperature checks and other measures to be sure they do not contract SARS or spread it to other foreign leaders.