Obama to visit China in November

BEIJING: President Barack Obama will visit China for the first time in November, the new U.S. ambassador said Saturday, a day after he arrived in the country.

Ambassador Jon Huntsman gave no specific dates, but Obama is scheduled to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Singapore on Nov. 14-15.

Huntsman, a former Republican governor of Utah and ambassador to Singapore, said the visit would be part of a boost in contacts with China as the countries grow increasingly interdependent.

"I am hopeful, confident, that by the end of the year the U.S.-China relationship will be better than ever before," Huntsman told reporters at his residence.

Huntsman delivered some of his comments in fluent Mandarin Chinese from his days as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan.

He was tapped by Obama to serve as ambassador in May. His nomination was confirmed Aug. 7 by the U.S. Senate and he was sworn in Aug. 11.

As ambassador, he faces challenges ranging from managing economic friction over China's massive trade surplus with the U.S. to Chinese objections to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, the self-governing island that Beijing claims as its own territory.

On Thursday, the chief of the General Staff of China's People's Liberation Army, Chen Bingde, told visiting U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey that Taiwan arms sales damaged China's "core national interests" and undermined cooperation between the U.S. and Chinese militaries.

A series of confrontations involving vessels from the two navies has also raised concerns over China's rising determination to defend what it sees as its territorial interests in the South China Sea, where the U.S. has long operated as the major international power.

The Obama administration has also argued that China should allow its currency, the yuan, to rise faster in value against the dollar, but it has stopped appreciating in recent months.

Despite the potential for conflict, the two nations have grown increasingly interdependent and Obama has sought to set a cooperative tone for relations, particularly in battling global warming and the effects of the international financial meltdown.

China is the biggest holder of U.S. Treasury securities, with $801 billion, and Chinese officials have repeatedly expressed concern over the safety of their investment given huge U.S. government deficit spending.

Huntsman succeeds Clark Randt, who was the top U.S. diplomat in Beijing from July 2001 until January, making him the longest-serving U.S. ambassador to China since the two nations established diplomatic ties in 1980.