Awkward G20 start for US, China after tarmac row
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.