Tuesday December 9, 10:37 AM
China's Wen to get 19-gun salute, "spectacular" pomp from White House
President George W. Bush may have stripped down White House protocol in keeping with a time of "war" but Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will get "spectacular" treatment Tuesday, complete with a 19-gun salute, an official said.
Wen will arrive at the presidential mansion for a South Lawn ceremony only offered during this administration to visiting heads of state, a senior administration official said.
Then he and Bush will hold talks in the Oval Office before sitting down to lunch.
Some observers have commented that Wen's reception will fall short of that accorded by the Clinton administration to the last Chinese premier to visit Washington, Zhu Rongji in April 1999.
Clinton and Zhu held a joint news conference, and appeared together at a sparkling White House black tie dinner similar to those held for heads of state, with an A-list of guests from politics, academia, the arts and entertainment.
"Times have changed," said the Bush administration official on condition of anonymity.
"We are a nation ... that is at war.
"This administration has stepped way back from the protocol treatment that the previous administration and administrations before that tended to give foreign visitors."
Despite the constraints, the official protested that the Bush White House was pushing the boat out for Wen, and felt excessive pomp was unnecessary, as some of the treatment meted out to Zhu was designed to smooth over testy relations with Beijing.
"Now we have a relatively strong relationship with China," the official said.
"Chinese like protocol and we are giving them as much as we can, but we don't need the protocol to sort of strengthen weaknesses in the bilateral relationship."
What is likely to be a chilly South Lawn ceremony will be similar to that given earlier this year to Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, who made a state visit.
A 19-gun salute will crack overhead, two blasts fewer than the 21-gun volley offered to heads of state, but much more than the average foreign head of government can expect at the White House.
Soon after arriving in Washington from New York on Monday, Wen was to be guest of honor at a dinner hosted by Secretary of State Colin Powell at the State Department.
Even before declaring war on global terrorism in September 2001, Bush was notoriously impatient at the protocol-laden ceremony of state-to-state foreign relations.
He has welcomed only four guests on state visit, Mexican President Vicente Fox, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Arroyo and Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki -- a tally far smaller than that of previous administrations.
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