White House Correspondent
WASHINGTON – President Obama met with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao for an hour and a half on Monday during the first day of the Nuclear Security Summit. White House officials said that the two leaders spent much of their time discussing Iran’s nuclear belligerence. Iran has for years been in violation of United Nations’ Security Council Resolution 1737, which requires Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment programs.
Western governments believe that Iran is developing its nuclear capabilities in order to create nuclear weapons. Tehran disputes that and claims that its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful research and energy purposes. Washington wants to start a new round of UN sanctions against Iran this spring.
In previous negotiations, China, which has close economic ties with Tehran, has consistently been Iran’s staunchest supporter of, often preventing Western nations from passing stricter measures. After today’s meeting, however, China may be more willing to cooperate on sanctioning Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“They are prepared to work with us,” White House official Jeff Bader said. ”The two Presidents agreed [that] the two delegations should work together on sanctions.”
Bader is the National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs. In addition to discussing Iran, Bader confirmed that Hu and Obama talked about currency matters, though he did not disclose whether anything was agreed on relating to that topic.
The White House has recently been pressuring China to reform its monetary policy so that they no longer undervalue the yuan. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner recently visited Beijing to press the Chinese on their currency manipulation and the effect that has had on the US-Chinese trade imbalance.
In a gesture of kindness towards Hu Jintao, however, the White House agreed to delay its planned mid-April determination of whether the Chinese are manipulating their currency until after Hu returned from the Summit. Persuading the Chinese to back down on both sanctions against Iran and its monetary policy will likely be extremely difficult. White House officials expect, though, that China will at least be willing to compromise on Iran.
“We expect a resolution this spring, which would be a matter of weeks,” National Security Council adviser Ben Rhodes said.
The details of this resolution will likely still be highly contested. Both Beijing and Moscow have opposed the US proposal to ban new investments on Iran’s energy sector, leaving much speculation about just how much Washington and its NATO allies can push through.