Chinese vice president calls for U.S.-China friendship to 'last forever'

Sunday, April 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HONOLULU (AP) _ Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao, expected to become its next leader, called Saturday for the U.S.-China friendship to ``last forever.''

As Hu began his first official visit to the United States, leaders from Hawaii Chinese organizations waved American and Chinese flags to greet him.

Later about 50 peaceful protesters waved a banner at Hu's motorcade, demanding China remove missiles from across the Taiwan strait.

Following February talks between Chinese President Jiang Zemin and President Bush in Beijing, Hu said his visit was aimed at ``strengthening the high-level contact between China and the United States, enhancing mutual understanding and pushing forward the Sino-U.S. constructive and cooperative relationship.''

Hu is expected to replace Jiang as Communist Party chief this year and as China's president next spring.

``May the friendship between the Chinese and American people last forever,'' he said in a statement issued on arrival at Hickam Air Force Base.

Hu was greeted by Gov. Ben Cayetano, Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris and Adm. Dennis C. Blair, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.

In the afternoon, Hu visited Pearl Harbor where he presented a wreath of orchids at the USS Arizona Memorial.

Back at his hotel in Waikiki, Hu met with about 50 local Chinese community leaders and Chinese students living in Hawaii.

``The development of the China-U.S. relationship is not only conducive to our two peoples, but to peace and stability in the world,'' he told them.

Hu spoke to the group about events that attracted worldwide attention last year, including the 80th anniversary of the Communist Party, China's admission to the World Trade Organization and the selection of Beijing to host the 2008 Summer Olympics.

He also had a message for the students for when they return to China.

``I hope you take the opportunity to contribute to the development of the motherland,'' he said.

Hu is scheduled to fly to New York on Sunday and is to meet with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in Washington.

The few outsiders who have met the 59-year-old Hu describe him as competent, if enigmatic and bland. He is traveling with an entourage that includes his wife, Madame Liu Yongqing, and eight cabinet ministers.