U.S. VP Biden says Chen's future is in United States

WASHINGTON Sun May 6, 2012 6:34pm IST

A handout photo from the U.S. Embassy Beijing Press office shows blind activist Chen Guangcheng (C) sitting in a wheelchair as he is accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke (R) at a hospital in Beijing, May 2, 2012. REUTERS/US Embassy Beijing Press Office/Handout

A handout photo from the U.S. Embassy Beijing Press office shows blind activist Chen Guangcheng (C) sitting in a wheelchair as he is accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke (R) at a hospital in Beijing, May 2, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/US Embassy Beijing Press Office/Handout

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Joe Biden said on Sunday the United States was ready to give blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng a visa "right away" and warned Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney would be weak on the international stage.

In a wide-ranging interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," Biden also signaled he was open to legalizing gay marriage and said Secretary of State and former first lady Hillary Clinton has not decided whether to seek the presidency again in 2016.

"I think we may run as a team," he joked in the interview, stoking expectations that Clinton may be contemplating another run at the White House. "I don't know whether I'm going to run. And Hillary doesn't know whether she's going to run," he said.

The vice president, who has been a main point of contact with China for the Obama administration, said the United States expected China to stick to its commitment to let Chen go abroad and take up a fellowship at New York University.

"I think his future is in America," Biden said. "He has an opportunity to go to NYU ... and we're prepared to give (him) a visa right away. He's going to be able to take his family."

Biden argued the United States' relationship with foreign powers including China, Russia and other countries have improved under President Barack Obama's leadership and said there could be some backsliding if Romney were elected.

Romney issued a warning about the risks of appeasing the United States' "No. 1 geopolitical foe" Russia after Obama was overheard telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Seoul that he would have "more flexibility" to deal with contentious issues after the November 6 election.

"If that's his prism through which he views our national security interest, I would say it would not be as strong," Biden said when asked whether the country would be less safe if Romney were president.

Pressed on social policy, Biden declined to specify whether the Obama administration would legalize gay marriage in a second White House term but said he personally was open to the change.

"The president sets the policy. I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties," Biden said.

Obama has said his views on gay marriage were "evolving" but has also said individual states should set policy related to it.

The Democrat is not expected to advance legislation that could alienate independent voters ahead of November's election, and has not said whether legalizing gay marriage would be among his second-term priorities.

On Sunday, Biden also debunked rumors that Hillary Clinton may take his place as vice president on the 2012 Democratic ticket, saying: "there's no way out. I mean, they've already printed Obama-Biden."

(Editing by Todd Eastham)

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