Heated exchanges, press disputes mar Obama’s China visit

HANGZHOU, China, Sept. 3 (UPI) — Chinese officials and White House staffers clashed in a series of shouting matches and angry altercations as President Barack Obama started his trip to the G20 summit in China.

The conflict began minutes after Air Force One touched down in Hangzhou when a Chinese official was heard yelling at White House staff and press, according to pool reports. Since there was no staircase for Obama to exit Air Force One, the president emerged from a rarely used lower-level staircase. Chinese officials yelled at White House staff when the press pool reporters, who usually track the president’s movements, were brought on the tarmac.

A White House official was heard refusing the request to remove the press, saying Obama was “our president” and Air Force One was “our plane.”

“This is our country,” the Chinese official shouted back.

The Chinese official then appeared to block National Security Adviser Susan Rice and her deputy, Ben Rhodes, speaking angrily at them as they lifted a rope used to corral the press to get closer to Obama.

Later, another shouting match took place at the West Lake State Guest House before Obama arrived at the site.

White House staffers were heard arguing with security officials in Chinese about how many Americans could go through security at one time and how many were allowed inside before the president.

The disagreement grew more heated when one White House official said Obama would be arriving in soon and objected over how they were being treated.

“You don’t push people. No one gave you the right to touch or push anyone around,” he yelled.

A U.S. official stepped between the two pleading with them to calm down, as a Chinese security official approached appearing ready to throw a punch, Washington Post reporter William Wan said.

Once inside, the two groups argued again after Chinese officials said only 10 American journalists were allowed inside.

“That’s not right,” a White House press official said.

The combative behavior continued into the evening as Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping started a casual walk through the West Lake compound. Chinese officials cut the number of journalists allowed to join the world leaders from six to one simply stating, “That is our arrangement.”

One White House press official argued the agreement kept changing. A second press member was ultimately allowed to record the walk.

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