In Surprise Meeting, China's President Greets Michelle Obama

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2014-03_b2fe725fb4.jpgAndy Wong-Pool/Getty Images (BEIJING) -- Michelle Obama received an unscheduled greeting from the President of China at the end of her first full day in the country, an economic landscape to which President Obama has said he wants to “rebalance” U.S. foreign policy. But Mrs. Obama is not engaging in any formal talks on issues such as human rights or global politics.

President Xi Jinping welcomed the American first lady and disclosed that he had spoken to President Obama by phone a few days ago and confirmed the two presidents are scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting next week in Europe.

Mrs. Obama, along with her daughters and mother, spent the first of five days in China visiting schools with Xi’s wife, Madam Peng Liyuan, a popular Chinese singer.  Mrs. Obama said she is focusing on education and cultural exchanges as she tours the capital Beijing and the interior cities of Xi’an and ChengDu.

At an English language high school in Beijing, the Obama women watched a robotics class, tried their hand at Chinese calligraphy, and engaged in a little ping-pong diplomacy -- the kind that opened relations with the United States more than a generation ago.  They toured the legendary Forbidden City with Madam Peng.

President Obama is travelling to Asia next month, but he is skipping China, stopping instead in Japan, South Korea, and two countries postponed from a cancelled trip last fall: the Philippines and Malaysia --which is currently managing the search for the missing Malaysian Air flight 370.

President Obama is to visit China this fall for the annual APEC Economic summit.

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