Sunday, September 4, 2016

 

Row on tarmac an awkward G20 start for U.S., China

 A Chinese official confronted U.S. President Barack Obama's national security adviser on the tarmac on Saturday prompting the Secret Service to intervene, an unusual altercation as China implements strict controls ahead of a big summit.

The stakes are high for China to pull off a trouble-free G20 summit of the world's top economies, its highest profile event of the year, as it looks to cement its global standing and avoid acrimony over a long list of tensions with Washington.

Shortly after Obama's plane landed in the eastern city of Hangzhou, a Chinese official attempted to prevent his national security adviser Susan Rice from walking to the motorcade as she crossed a media rope line, speaking angrily to her before a Secret Service agent stepped between the two.

Rice responded but her comments were inaudible to reporters standing underneath the wing of Air Force One. It was unclear if the official, whose name was not immediately clear, knew that Rice was a senior official and not a reporter.

The same official shouted at a White House press aide who was instructing foreign reporters on where to stand as they recorded Obama disembarking from the plane.

"This is our country. This is our airport," the official said in English, pointing and speaking angrily with the aide.

The U.S. aide insisted that the journalists be allowed to stand behind a rope line, and they were able to record the interaction and Obama's arrival uninterrupted, typical practice for U.S. press traveling with the president.

A White House spokesman and China's Foreign Ministry both did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

The altercation occurred out of sight of Obama, who greeted ambassadors and other officials before the presidential motorcade pulled away with Rice.

The incident is an illustration of the image-conscious ruling Communist Party's efforts to control the media as its seeks to orchestrate what it hopes will be a flawless event.

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