Awk­ward G20 start for US, China af­ter tar­mac row

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has tried to down­play a row be­tween US and Chi­nese of­fi­cials upon his ar­rival in China for the G20 Sum­mit, say­ing the in­ci­dent should not be overblown.

Obama’s last sched­uled trip to China be­fore leav­ing of­fice got off to an awk­ward start on Satur­day soon af­ter Air Force One landed in the eastern city of Hangzhou, where lead­ers of the world’s top economies are con­ven­ing.

Af­ter the plane parked on the tar­mac, a Chi­nese of­fi­cial at­tempted to pre­vent US na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Su­san Rice from walk­ing to Obama’s mo­tor­cade as she crossed a me­dia rope line, speak­ing an­grily to her be­fore a US Se­cret Ser­vice agent stepped be­tween the two.

Rice re­sponded but her com­ments were in­audi­ble to jour­nal­ists stand­ing un­der­neath the wing of Air Force One.

It was un­clear if the of­fi­cial, whose iden­tity was not im­me­di­ately clear, knew that Rice was a se­nior of­fi­cial and not a jour­nal­ist. 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.

Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown, re­port­ing from Hangzhou, said it was “a cu­ri­ous in­ci­dent” as China has tried every­thing to pull off a trou­ble-free G20 sum­mit, its high­est pro­file event of the year.

“It has mil­lions of vol­un­teers on hand and it has spent $100m on the venue where the G20 Sum­mit is go­ing to be tak­ing place,” Brown said. “It is what hap­pens when you have this sort of reg­i­mented and in many ways sti­fling se­cu­rity we cur­rently have here in Hangzhou.”

Chi­nese air­port of­fi­cials at first also de­clined to pro­vide Air Force One with air­port steps on the tar­mac upon its ar­rival.

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