Obama says not soft-pedaling China rights issues

WASHINGTON Mon Nov 9, 2009 5:39pm EST

President Barack Obama answers questions during an interview with Reuters in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, November 9, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young

President Barack Obama answers questions during an interview with Reuters in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, November 9, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama Monday rejected criticisms that he is giving short shrift to human rights issues in his approach toward China and some other countries.

"I don't find the critics credible," Obama told Reuters in an interview. "If you look at my statements, they have been entirely consistent. We believe in the values of freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of religion, that are not just core American values but we believe are universal values."

Obama this week heads to Asia for a nine-day trip that will include visits to Shanghai and Beijing.

Critics have cited his decision last month not to meet with the Dalai Lama as a sign he was willing to play down human rights concerns to try to curry favor with the Chinese on other issues, such as the global economy and the Iranian and North Korean nuclear disputes.

(Reporting by Caren Bohan, editing by Anthony Boadle)