SYDNEY, Australia – President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao tackled contentious issues on Thursday, from climate change and Iran and North Korea to recalls of tainted Chinese food and individual freedoms in China.
"He's an easy man to talk to. I'm very comfortable in my discussions with President Hu," Bush said after a face-to-face meeting that lasted about 90 minutes on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific economic summit.
Hu called the discussion "candid and friendly," even though it touched on deep U.S.-Chinese differences.
Bush said he shared with Hu the U.S. concerns about religious freedom and individual liberties in China, and about the recent rash of defective China-made products and tainted food subject to recalls. Hu "was quite articulate about product safety and I appreciated his comments," Bush said. He did not elaborate.
The two did not take questions after their session, but both spoke briefly with reporters.
Bush said he was "anxious to accept" Hu's invitation to attend the 2008 Olympics in China.
Hu said their talks took place in a "friendly atmosphere."
"We both expressed a desire to work toward further development and growth of the business and commercial ties to our two countries," said the Chinese leader.
"We also talked about climate change. We believe that the issue of climate change bears on the welfare of the whole humanity and sustainable development of the whole world. And this issue should be ... tackled through a stronger international cooperation," Hu said.
The Chinese leader did not go further than that, but seeking to reach agreement on ways to control global warming was made a top priority of this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum by Australian President John Howard, the host.
Earlier, Bush conferred with an Australian opposition candidate who is anti-war and could soon be in a position to challenge Bush's Iraq policies.
Bush met with Labor Party candidate Kevin Rudd, who has vowed to bring Australian troops home from Iraq if elected. That's in sharp contrast to the strong support for the war and Bush's recent military buildup from Howard.
Rudd leads Howard by a wide margin in polls for elections expected to be held within the next three months. The White House kept the session with Rudd, held in Bush's hotel, as low key as possible.
Before meeting with Hu, Bush and his aides said he was eager to talk about increasing trade and climate controls and to express satisfaction with Beijing's role in pressing North Korea to agree to disavow nuclear weapons. But he was also ready to discuss product-safety issues following a rash of recalls in the United States, and to register his worries about China's exchange rate policies.
Bush was to urge the Chinese leader to be more aggressive on Iran, raise the issue of jailed dissidents, press Hu on the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and on the treatment of the Dalai Lama, administration officials said. He was also to possibly bring up unsubstantiated reports that China's military has hacked into Pentagon computers.
"Our relationship with China is complex," Bush said Wednesday.
Bush suggested China could help reduce trade imbalances and allow its currency to be more responsive to market influences.
"We still have got a huge trade deficit with China, which then causes us to want to work with them to adjust — to let their currency float," Bush said earlier. "We think that would be helpful in terms of adjusting trade balances."
Dan Price, a presidential international economic adviser, said "a whole range of economic issues, bilateral issues with China, are obviously on the table, and would naturally be subjects of discussion between the two presidents." Exchange rates are "a very important issue" to both countries, he said.
Analysts say China's yuan is undervalued, giving Chinese exporters an unfair advantage despite China's steps to revalue the currency by 2.1 percent in 2005 and then letting it appreciate a further 7.3 percent.
U.S.-Chinese tensions have also grown over the issue of defective products. Just Wednesday, Mattel Inc. announced a third major recall of Chinese-made toys in little more than a month because of excessive amounts of lead paint. The world's largest toy maker said the move affects about 800,000 toys.
China has denied reports that its military hacked into a computer system in the office of Defense Secretary Robert Gates in June. Bush largely sidestepped the question on Wednesday, but said, "We understand that we're vulnerable in some systems." The Financial Times, citing unidentified officials, said China was behind the attack that forced the Pentagon to temporarily take down the network. China has called the allegations "groundless."