China's vice president and presumptive next leader Xi Jinping on Wednesday called on the US to "respect" the country's decisions while deepening "strategic trust" in his first major remarks since the start of his four-day US visit, the BBC reported.
Xi's visit is being followed closely for signs of potential policy shifts ahead of his installment as Communist leader later this year. He is set to travel to Iowa and the West Coast following meetings with ten US lawmakers and a lunch sponsored in part by the US-China Business Council on Capital Hill on Wednesday.
Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger reportedly introduced Xi before he spoke at the event, which was expected to draw some 600 businessmen and opened with a toast by Coca Cola head Muhtar Kent.
The Washington Post reported that sponsors paid some $25,000 for a quick reception and photo opportunity with Xi. China's refusal to grant the US ambassador at large for international religious freedom a visa, as reported by The Washington Post on Tuesday, was presumably not mentioned.
Xi told policymakers that the two nations must "reduce misunderstandings and suspicion," the BBC reported, following that up with a call for the US to ease restrictions on Chinese imports.
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Xi's visit comes amid tensions between the world's two largest economies, with many US lawmakers openly critical of China's currency policy, which they say unfairly favors the nation's domestic industry. The US has also been at odds with China over its refusal to back a UN resolution condemning the violence in Syria, the scene of increasing violence in recent months as the country's authoritarian President Bashar Al-Assad seeks to crush an uprising against his rule. China and Russia vetoed a draft resolution to that effect earlier this month.
The Washington Post reported that Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked Xi about Syria but "he didn’t answer my question concerning the veto of the resolution, nor did he respond on human rights," describing a "courteous" meeting that nonetheless incidated “we have a long way to go."
“We still have Tibetan monks burning themselves to death; we have Nobel Prize winners under house arrest; and the continued propping up of North Korea, a brutal regime that is capable of causing profound international crises; and I mentioned to the vice president I thought it was really wrong to veto the resolution on Syria in the Security Council," McCain said. "The Syrian government is massacring thousands of its people.”
Also Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that United Nations has scheduled an Arab-sponsored resolution denouncing human rights violations in Syria on Thursday.