Published: Sat, April 01, 2017
World News | By Cecilia Wilkerson

Tillerson lauds China-US contacts in meeting with leader Xi

Tillerson lauds China-US contacts in meeting with leader Xi

A spokesman for North Korea's Foreign Ministry slammed U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's recent talk of tougher sanctions, more pressure, and possible military action, and said the North would not be deterred in its nuclear program.

Tillerson held talks with Wang Yi, China's foreign minister, on Saturday. "We are both expecting a new era for constructive development".

Beijing shares United States concerns over Pyongyang's nuclearisation but is careful not to provoke North Korea.

Wang said North Korea could suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for a halt in joint US-South Korea military drills, a proposal quickly dismissed by Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations, who said the US has to see "some sort of positive action" from North Korea before it can take leader Kim Jong-un seriously.

Washington wants China, the North's neighbor and main trading partner, to use its influence to rein in the weapons programs.

Wang said China had made "important contributions" to supporting USA engagement with Pyongyang but stressed it was, at its core, an issue between the United States and North Korea.

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According to Wang, both leaders discussed some of the biggest differences between the two countries, including Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan, the disputes in the South China Sea and the installation of the US-built Thaad anti-missile system on South Korean territory, which China opposes strongly, Efe news reported.

And though his warnings about the possibility of eventual military action over North Korea have raised hackles here, Tillerson received a warm welcome from China's president on Sunday.

North Korea announced this weekend that it had tested a new rocket engine that could drive a nuclear weapon.

Tillerson's visit is expected to pave the way for their first meeting, as early as next month, at Trump's private club in Mar-a-Lago, Florida.

While Trump pledged during his campaign to slap 45 percent tariffs on imports from China and label the country a currency manipulator, there has been little indication of his doing either.

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

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Mr Tillerson later met Yang Jiechi, Mr Xi's leading foreign policy adviser, and he is scheduled to meet Mr Xi on Sunday morning before returning to the US.

He floated a proposal that North Korea could suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for a halt in joint US-South Korean military drills.

Mr Wang warned last week that North Korea on one side, and the US and South Korea on the other, were like "two accelerating trains" heading towards each other, with neither side willing to give way.

Still, China and the United States appeared to have made some progress or put aside differences on hard issues, at least in advance of a planned summit between Xi and Trump.

Tillerson, while in Seoul earlier, rejected negotiations with North Korea.

It remained unclear whether Tillerson's apparently cordial Beijing visit would now pave the way.

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