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Obama and Xi open two-day summit

US president Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping have opened a two-day summit at a California desert estate, aiming for closer personal ties as they take on high-stakes issues including cybersecurity and North Korea's nuclear threats.

Under a shaded walkway as temperatures surged above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.78C), the two leaders - in white shirts and suit coats but no ties - greeted each other and walked side by side to start their first in-person meetings since Mr Xi took office in March.

"Our decision to meet so early (in Mr Xi's term) signifies the importance of the US-China relationship," Mr Obama said. He noted the unusual setting and said he hoped for "more extended" and informal talks that will lead to a "new model of co-operation" between countries.

The two leaders were meeting at the 200-acre Sunnylands estate just outside Palm Springs, California. They were due to take questions from reporters after a bilateral meeting, then hold a working dinner and additional talks on Saturday.

Mr Obama, seated next to US secretary of state John Kerry, said the US welcomes the rise of a peaceful China and seeks "economic order where nations are playing by the same rules".

He called for the US and China to work together to address cybersecurity. "Inevitably there are areas of tension between our countries," Mr Obama said, adding that it is in the interests of both countries to work together.

However, Mr Obama's urging of Mr Xi to stop reported Chinese hacking against the US could be overshadowed by new revelations that Mr Obama's own administration has been secretly collecting information about phone and internet use. The actions of both China and the US underscore the vast technological powers that governments can tap to gather information covertly from individuals, companies and other governments.

Mr Obama, seeking to keep the matter from trailing him through two days of China meetings, addressed the surveillance programmes for the first time on Friday morning. He said the efforts strike "the right balance" between security and civil liberties as the US combats terrorism. "You can't have 100% security and then also have 100% privacy and zero inconvenience. We're going to have to make some choices as a society," he said during a healthcare event in northern California.

US officials see Mr Xi, who took office in March, as a potentially new kind of Chinese leader. He has deeper ties to the US than many of his predecessors and appears more comfortable in public than the last president, Hu Jintao, with whom Mr Obama never developed a strong personal rapport.

Already the White House is encouraged that Mr Xi agreed to the unusual California summit. The talks will be void of the formal pageantry that Chinese leaders often expect during state visits at the White House.


From Belfast Telegraph