WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama on Friday called on China to quickly release imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, lauding the dissident as an "eloquent and courageous" supporter of human rights and democracy.
The wording of Obama's statement, made hours after Liu was awarded the prize, reflected the sensitivity of U.S.-Chinese relations.
Obama praised China for "dramatic progress in economic reform and improving the lives of its people, lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty." But, he added, "this award reminds us that political reform has not kept pace, and that the basic human rights of every man, woman and child must be respected."
U.S. officials try to strike a balance with China, pressing it on economic and human rights issues, while trying to win crucial Chinese support on the Iranian and North Korean nuclear standoffs.
There was no immediate reaction from Beijing on Obama's warm words for Liu. He was sentenced last year to 11 years in prison on subversion charges after he co-authored a document calling for greater freedom.
Liu's prize and rising U.S.-China economic friction this week complicates the Obama administration's efforts to win Chinese trust and cooperation. - AP