Obama, China's Xi pledge cooperation and joke about first lady

THE HAGUE - US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged cooperation between their countries and chatted about first lady Michelle Obama's recent trip to Beijing when they met prior to a nuclear summit on Monday.

In remarks to reporters ahead of their meeting, Obama said he and Xi would discuss the situation in Ukraine, denuclearization of North Korea, and fighting climate change.

Obama said the bilateral relationship between the two countries was as important as any in the world.

Through various meetings and forums, Obama said, "We're also able to work through frictions that exist in our relations around issues like human rights, dealing with maritime issues in the South China Sea and the Pacific region in a way that is constructive and hopefully will lead to resolutions and … solutions for all parties."

Xi made a point of thanking Obama for US help in searching for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight which had a large number of Chinese passengers. He said the two countries should address common challenges in a spirit of mutual cooperation.

"China is firmly committed to ... building a new model of major country relations," he said, according to a translator. "We are committed to our position of no confrontation... mutual respect, and win-win cooperation with regard to the United States."

Obama also thanked Xi for hosting his wife and daughters, who are touring China.

"She also played some table tennis, although I think this was not the high level ping pong diplomacy that we saw in the past," Obama joked about his wife.

Xi said he had a message for Obama from the US first lady.

"She asked me to formally convey to you her best regards," he said to laughter in the room.