WASHINGTON — The United States plans to contribute US$500,000 to help with earthquake relief efforts in China in anticipation of an appeal for aid by the International Red Cross, the White House said on Tuesday.
“It’s an initial contribution in response to the event,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.
“As other engineers tour the area and the needs become evident, we’ll consider what if any additional funding is needed,” she said.
Chinese officials have said about 12,000 people have been killed since the 7.9 magnitude quake struck the southwestern region of Sichuan, with China’s state media reporting that thousands more were buried.
U.S. President George W. Bush spoke to Chinese President Hu Jintao earlier on Tuesday to offer condolences and U.S. assistance, Perino said.
In discussions on the struggling cyclone relief efforts in Myanmar, a Chinese ally, “President Hu offered to continue to assist our efforts,” she said.
Bush on Monday condemned the military junta that runs the former Burma for failing to act more quickly to accept international help after Cyclone Nargis devastated the country and left up to 100,000 dead or missing, saying “either they are isolated or callous.”
Bush also raised with Hu the issue of Tibet, which exploded in anti-Chinese riots in March that were followed by a tough crackdown and widespread international protests over Chinese policy in the Himalayan region, Perino said.
The U.S. president “encouraged the Chinese government to continue to reach out to the Dalai Lama’s representatives and engage in substantive dialogue so that long standing issues with regard to Tibet may be resolved,” she said.
Aides to the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader and Chinese officials held talks in southern China early this month and have said more meetings will be held.