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Xi, Tillerson want 'new era' in US-China ties

March 19, 2017

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has told Chinese President Xi Jinping that Donald Trump is looking forward to "enhancing understanding" with China. North Korea's activities have tested bilateral relations.

China Präsident Xi Jinping & US-Außenminister Rex Tillerson
Image: Getty Images/L. Zhang

Tillerson meets Xi in Beijing

America's top diplomat Rex Tillerson met with the Chinese leader in Beijing's Great Hall on Sunday at the end of his first trip to Asia since taking office.

President Xi Jinping told reporters he was glad to see good progress from Tillerson's meetings in China so far, and that he and US President Donald Trump were both "expecting a new era for constructive development" in bilateral relations.

"You said that China-US relations can only be friendly. I express my appreciation for this," Xi said, adding that he and Trump had pledged in a phone call last month "to make joint efforts to advance China-US cooperation."

"I'm confident that, as long as we can do this, the relationship can surely move in the right direction," Xi said. Negotiations are underway for the two leaders to meet in the United States next month.

Tillerson replied that Trump places a "very high value on the communications that have already occurred" between Xi and Trump.

"He looks forward to enhancing that understanding in the opportunity for a visit in the future," Tillerson said. 

Nordkorea Tongchang-Ri Raketen-Teststation
North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests and a series of missile launches in recent years in defiance of UN resolutionsImage: Getty Images/AFP/P. Ugarte

Another provocation

It wasn't clear whether Tillerson and Xi discussed North Korea's missile and nuclear activities, which have strained relations between the two powers.

Just hours before their meeting Sunday, North Korea conducted a rocket engine test, with leader Kim Jong Un declaring the "new birth" of its rocket industry, according to state media.

Tillerson and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi pledged in talks Saturday to work towards denuclearizing the North, but they did not provide further details on how they would go about it.


'All options on the table'

Before arriving in the Chinese capital, Tillerson had stops in Japan and South Korea, where he announced that Washington's policy of "strategic patience" with Pyongyang was over, and that military action was "on the table."

That kind of rhetoric is at odds with Beijing's preference for diplomatic talks. The US has sought to pressure China, North Korea's main trading partner and historical ally, to use its influence to curb its rogue neighbor's weapons program. Trump has accused China of not doing enough, while Beijing has voiced alarm over a US anti-missile defense system being deployed in South Korea.

Undeterred by UN sanctions, North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests and a series of missile launches. Experts estimate it could soon have a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the US.

nm/rc (Reuters, AFP)