World

Xi expects 'constructive development'

US Secretary of State's first visit to Asia ends on a bright note, with warm words from the Chinese President

BEIJING United States' Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ended his first trip to Asia since taking office with an agreement to collaborate with China on North Korea and put aside trickier issues.

China has been irritated at being repeatedly told by Washington to rein in North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes and the US decision to base an advanced missile defence system in South Korea.

Beijing is also deeply suspicious of US intentions towards Taiwan, which China claims as its own, with the Trump administration crafting a new arms package for the island that is bound to anger China.

But meeting in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, those issues were brushed aside by Mr Xi and Mr Tillerson, at least in front of reporters, with Mr Xi saying Mr Tillerson had made a lot of effort to achieve a smooth transition in a new era of relations.

Said Mr Xi: "You said that China-US relations can only be friendly. I express my appreciation for this."

He said he had communicated with President Donald Trump several times through telephone conversations and messages.

Said the Chinese President: "We both believe that China-US cooperation henceforth is the direction we are both striving for. We are both expecting a new era for constructive development."

China and the US must strengthen coordination of hot regional issues, respect each other's core interests and major concerns, and protect the broad stability of ties, he said.

Mr Tillerson replied that Mr Trump looks forward to enhancing understanding with China and the opportunity for a visit.

HIGH VALUE

Mr Tillerson said the US President places a "very high value on the communications that have already occurred" between both presidents.

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

"We know that through further dialogue, we will achieve a greater understanding that will lead to a strengthening of the ties between China and the US and set the tone for our future relationship of cooperation."

Before Mr Tillerson arrived in Beijing on Saturday, Mr Trump said North Korea was "behaving very badly" and accused China of doing little to resolve the crisis over the North's weapons programmes.

Speaking in Seoul on Friday, Mr 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 US forces.

Still, China and the US appeared to have made progress on difficult issues.

Both Mr Tillerson and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi struck a more conciliatory tone in their meeting, with Mr Tillerson saying the US and China will work together to get nuclear-armed North Korea take "a different course".

The Chinese official also reiterated that they do not have the influence over North Korea that Washington and others believe

And he expressed fears poverty-struck North Korea could collapse if it were cut off completely, pushing destabilising waves of refugees into north-eastern China.

- REUTERS

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