U.S. President Barack Obama has opened a high-level dialogue with China
with a call for broader cooperation to spark a global economic recovery
and prevent nuclear proliferation.
Mr. Obama said Monday U.S.-Chinese efforts to deal with such issues will shape the 21st century, making the relationship as important to Washington as any in the world. The president was speaking in Washington at the start of a two-day strategic and economic dialogue led by senior U.S. and Chinese officials.
Chinese President Hu Jintao sent a message to the meeting, saying Beijing and Washington bear important responsibilities on a range of issues concerning peace and the "development of mankind."
Mr. Obama said he has "no illusions" that the two countries will agree on every issue or see the world in the same way. He said China must respect the religion and culture of its ethnic minorities and enable people to speak their minds, just as the United States must do with its minorities.
Mr. Obama said he looks forward to making his first visit to China, to better understand its leaders and people. He did not announce a date.
The U.S. president said neither the United States nor China has an interest in a nuclear arms race breaking out in East Asia. He appealed for China's help in dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapon program, as well as in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
The U.S.-China talks are an expansion of a dialogue launched by the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush in 2006 that focused only on economic issues.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner are leading the U.S. delegation, while China's top representatives are Vice Premier Wang Qishan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo.
China is Washington's biggest creditor and holds more than $800 billion worth of U.S. Treasury securities.