Washington: The United States said on Wednesday that it would welcome Chinese President Hu Jintao for a state visit on January 19, as the two sides seek to ease economic spats and tensions on the Korean peninsula.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will offer the full pageantry of a state dinner for Hu at the White House, as the US leader reciprocates after his visit to Beijing and Shanghai last year.
The two leaders will also be expected to hold in-depth talks in the Oval Office, after meeting repeatedly at international summits around the world, and in a string of one-on-one talks, in Obama`s two years in power.
Hu`s appearance in Washington will come at a time of aggravated tensions between Washington and Beijing, despite efforts by both sides to find common ground on issues like North Korea and Iranian nuclear sanctions.
Both sides, however, have an incentive to pull off a smooth visit, as Obama sees America`s future increasingly tied to a dynamic Asia, and Hu looks to his legacy as he prepares to hand over to a successor as president in 2013.
The White House, in fixing the date of a previously announced visit, stuck to calibrated diplomatic language to sum up the relationship between superpower America and its emerging counterpart across the Pacific.
"President Hu`s visit will highlight the importance of expanding cooperation between the United States and China on bilateral, regional and global issues, as well as the friendship between the peoples of our two countries," the White House said in a statement.
"The President looks forward to welcoming President Hu to Washington to continue building a partnership that advances our common interests and addresses our shared concerns."
It was not immediately clear whether Hu would spend more than the announced one day in the United States. Previous Chinese leaders like ex-presidents Jiang Zemin and Deng Xiaoping toured other US cities as well as Washington.
Economic ties between China and the United States have been severely strained in recent months by US allegations that Beijing is keeping the value of its currency, the yuan, artificially low to boost its exports -- to the detriment of US firms.
Obama has repeatedly called on China to allow the yuan to find a fair market value, and officials said that most of his most recent one-on-one meeting with Hu, in Seoul last month, was devoted to currency issues.
Obama`s national security adviser Tom Donilon said in Japan, also in November, that he wanted the Chinese to show progress on the yuan before Hu and Obama sit down at the White House.
Earlier, the United States announced that Defense Secretary Robert Gates would visit Beijing early in the New Year, in a possible sign that diplomatic and military tensions may be easing between Washington and China.
The Pentagon said Gates will travel to China from January 09 to 12, one year after Beijing cut military relations with Washington in protest against a multi-billion-dollar US arms package for rival Taiwan.