UPDATE 2-White House summit for China’s Hu set for Jan. 19

* Firm date finally set

* North Korea and economic issues likely to feature
(Adds Chinese government comment, paragraphs 5-7)

By Chris Buckley and Caren Bohan

BEIJING/WASHINGTON, Dec 23 (BestGrowthStock) – President Barack
Obama will host his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, on a state
visit on Jan. 19, the United States said, setting the stage
for a summit in which North Korea and currency strains are
likely to loom large.

The White House said the visit would highlight the
importance of expanding cooperation “on bilateral, regional
and global issues”.

While Beijing and Washington are likely to use the summit
to cast their relationship in a friendly light, Obama and Hu
will have disagreements to discuss, especially North Korea and
China’s trade surplus and currency controls.

North Korea, angry at live-fire artillery drills into what
it says was its territorial waters last month, shelled a South
Korean island, killing four people. It is also accused of
sinking a South Korean submarine in March, killing 46 sailors.

North Korea has also triggered regional alarm by claiming
fast progress in uranium enrichment, which would give it a
second pathway to making nuclear weapons.

China has resisted calls from Washington and its regional
allies, South Korea and Japan, to criticise and increase
pressure on Pyongyang, which relies on Beijing for economic
and diplomatic backing. Beijing has instead urged all sides to
return to talks.

U.S. complaints that China keeps its yuan currency too
cheap, giving it an unfair trade advantage, are also likely to
feature.

The U.S. trade deficit with China rose 20 percent in the
first 10 months of 2010 and could top $270 billion for the
year when final figures are in. That would pass the record of
$268 billion set in 2008.

But carefully negotiated summits such as this are more
about nurturing understanding than scoring policy
breakthroughs, said David Lampton, professor of China studies
at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies
in Washington.

“Lately, one of the biggest problems in U.S.-China
relations is that each side has had excessive expectations of
what the other could conceivably deliver,” Lampton wrote in an
earlier email response to questions about Hu’s trip.

“If this trip can lead the two leaders to have more
realistic appreciations of the limits each country faces in
dealing with the other, that alone should be counted a
successful trip.”

China will want the United States to avoid the gaffes that
marred his trip to the White House in 2006, when China’s
national anthem was announced as that of the “Republic of
China”, Taiwan, the self-ruled island Beijing considers a
breakaway province.

Hu also stood flustered on the White House lawn while a
follower of Falun Gong, a spiritual sect banned in China,
harangued him for three minutes from the press area.

China called that visit a “state visit”, but the U.S.
deemed it an official visit, a less prestigious tag. The last
visit to the White House by a Chinese leader that both sides
called a state one was by Jiang Zemin in 1997.

Hu’s visit will include a state dinner in the evening.
That will be a symbolic trophy for the Chinese leader, who
analysts have said will use the trip to boost his status as he
prepares to leave office from late 2012. [ID:nTOE6B0024]

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Hu was going to
Washington in January, but would not confirm the date given by
the White House.
(Editing by Nick Macfie)

UPDATE 2-White House summit for China’s Hu set for Jan. 19