Tillerson ends China trip with warm words
from President Xi
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[March 20, 2017]
By Yeganeh Torbati and Michael Martina
BEIJING (Reuters) - With warm words from
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex
Tillerson ended his first trip to Asia since taking office with an
agreement to work together with China on North Korea and putting aside
China has been irritated at being repeatedly told by Washington to rein
in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs and the U.S. decision to
base an advanced missile defense system in South Korea.
Beijing is also deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions toward self-ruled
Taiwan, which China claims as its own, with the Trump administration
crafting a big new arms package for the island that is bound to anger
But meeting in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, those issues were
brushed aside by Xi and Tillerson, at least in front of reporters, with
Xi saying Tillerson had made a lot of efforts to achieve a smooth
transition in a new era of relations.
"You said that China-U.S. relations can only be friendly. I express my
appreciation for this," Xi said.
Xi said he had communicated with President Donald Trump several times
through telephone conversations and messages.
"We both believe that China-U.S. cooperation henceforth is the direction
we are both striving for. We are both expecting a new era for
constructive development," Xi said.
"The joint interests of China and the United States far outweigh the
differences, and cooperation is the only correct choice for us both," Xi
added, in comments carried by China's Foreign Ministry.
China and the United States must strengthen coordination of hot regional
issues, respect each other's core interests and major concerns, and
protect the broad stability of ties, Xi said.
Tillerson replied that Trump looks forward to enhancing understanding
with China and the opportunity for a visit in the future.
Tillerson said Trump places a "very high value on the communications
that have already occurred" between Xi and Trump.
"And he looks forward to enhancing that understanding in the opportunity
for a visit in the future," Tillerson said.
"We know that through further dialogue we will achieve a greater
understanding that will lead to a strengthened, strengthening of the
ties between China and the United States and set the tone for our future
relationship of cooperation."
Trump has so far been an unpredictable partner for China, attacking
Beijing on issues ranging from trade to the South China Sea and in
December by talking to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.
Before Tillerson arrived in Beijing on Saturday, Trump said North Korea
was "behaving very badly" and accused China of doing little to resolve
the crisis over the North's weapons programs.
[to top of second column]
China's President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with U.S. State of
Secretary, Rex Tillerson at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing,
China, March 19, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Speaking in Seoul on Friday, Tillerson issued the Trump
administration's starkest warning yet to North Korea, saying in
Seoul that a military response would be "on the table" if Pyongyang
took action to threaten South Korean and U.S. forces.
Still, China and the United States appeared to have made some
progress or put aside differences on difficult issues, at least in
advance of a planned summit between Xi and Trump.
Both Tillerson and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi struck a more
conciliatory tone in their meeting, with Tillerson saying the United
States and China would work together to get nuclear-armed North
Korea take "a different course".
Underscoring the tensions, North Korea conducted a test of a new
high-thrust engine at its Tongchang-ri rocket launch station and
leader Kim Jong Un said the successful test was "a new birth" of its
rocket industry, Pyongyang's official media said on Sunday.
North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests and a series of missile
launches, in defiance of U.N. sanctions, and is believed by experts
and government officials to be working to develop nuclear-warhead
missiles that could reach the United States.
Washington wants China, the North's neighbor and main trading
partner, to use its influence to rein in the weapons programs.
China says it is committed to enforcing U.N. sanctions on North
Korea, but all sides have a responsibility to lessen tensions and
get back to the negotiating table.
Chinese official also repeatedly say they do not have the influence
over North Korea that Washington and others believe, and express
fears poverty-struck North Korea could collapse if it were cut off
completely, pushing destabilizing waves of refugees into
(Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)
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