Larsen gets China leader’s ear

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen and five other members of Congress met privately with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday, discussing ways to improve military ties between the nations, pursue alternative energy and bring Christians together.

“I think it means the Chinese leadership recognizes that Congress is going to have a say in the U.S.-China relationship,” Larsen, D-Wash., said of the meeting.

He was one of six lawmakers who met with Hu for 40 minutes. The others were Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.; Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va.; Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska; Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii; and Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn.

The congressional meetings followed a meeting at the White House between Hu and President Bush and a state luncheon.

The Associated Press reported that the Hu and Bush agreed to cooperate more closely on trade and nuclear tensions over Iran and North Korea, but failed to break new ground toward resolving a host of other differences. No breakthroughs were expected during Hu’s first visit to the White House as president of China. Both he and Bush acknowledged at a photo session that much work remained.

In the meeting with members of Congress, each brought their own list of issues.

Larsen said he thanked Hu for stopping in Washington state. He also pushed Boeing’s wish to fulfill China’s future commercial airline needs and Microsoft’s desire for China to work further to protect intellectual property rights and curb software piracy.

Larsen, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, also raised the need for better communication between the militaries of the two countries.

He said he stressed the need “for China to remove ambiguity and increase transparency in the Chinese military, and with regards to China’s military intentions.”

The idea of connecting military officers of similar ranks would build trust, the lawmakers said. Kirk suggested establishing a hotline between leaders in the departments of defense in each country. The U.S. has such hotlines with several countries, but not China.

“In foreign policy and international relations, full trust comes from a lot off work, and there’s a lot of work to be done in this relationship,” Larsen said.

Human rights did not come up during the meeting. Coleman called for jointly pursuing projects in wind energy and biodiesel, and Forbes expressed a desire to bring more Christians to visit China.

Thursday’s invitation is a boost for the U.S.-China Working Group, which Larsen and Kirk formed last year to serve as a fount for conversation on the U.S.-China relationship. The initial membership included 20 House members of both parties.

The meeting also acknowledged the role of the Congressional China Caucus led by Forbes and the U.S.-China Interparliamentary Group headed by Stevens.

“We’re going to have to learn to trust each other over time,” Larsen said.

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623 or

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