Published: Tue, March 21, 2017
Global Media | By Meredith Barber

Remarks Before His Meeting With Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

Remarks Before His Meeting With Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the U.S. and China feel a sense of urgency about North Korea, which on Sunday tested a high-thrust rocket that it called the "new birth" of its rocket industry.

Pyongyang's main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, yesterday denounced the USA for its hostile North Korean policy, slamming it as "brigandish" and "rogue" in a commentary. That meeting will be rife with controversial issues, which may include what to do about North Korea, Trump's complicated relationship with the "One China" policy (of the utmost importance to Beijing), and Trump's protectionism and general unpredictability on trade. They have been "playing" the United States for years. "China has done little to help!" tweeted Trump in response.

Tillerson's use of Beijing's formula may leave the Trump administration open to criticism that either Tillerson bent over too far backwards to placate his Chinese hosts, or he failed to articulate the USA vision of the relationship, perhaps because it has yet to come up with a coherent policy towards China and Asia. They made brief public remarks after their meeting. "Time is not on our side", said James McKeon, a policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. "We are exploring a new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures".

Former ExxonMobil CEO and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, as well as the Chinese president over the weekend.

On Thursday in Tokyo, Tillerson called for a "new approach" to dealing with North Korea.

There was no mention of contentious issues like North Korea's missile and nuclear programs or self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own. The joint war games, involving more than 320,000 military personnel, an aircraft carrier strike group and stealth war planes, are a rehearsal for war with North Korea. He suggested that "broader sanctions" on North Korea could be considered, adding: "It's not our objective to force [Pyongyang] into some brash action".

The trip followed a string of North Korean missile launches, which escalated tensions on the Korean Peninsula and came amid fears Pyongyang is preparing for another nuclear test. Working together to get North Korea to change course is something Trump and Xi will need to work out face to face. Tourism, transport business and cultural exchanges between China and South Korea have all reportedly suffered since the spat. But Beijing also wants to avoid the collapse of the North Korean regime, which could result in a unified pro-US Korea on its northern border.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Beijing, Victor Gao, director of the China National Association of International Studies, said: "US-China trade right now is worth nearly $600bn and it is a fact that China has a huge surplus in the trade with the US". North Korea could readily aim these missiles to the north and west towards China and this has caused a great deal of concern in Beijing.

Xi said he was glad to see good progress from Tillerson's meetings in China so far and that he and Trump expect a new stage of constructive development in bilateral relations.

The test came a day after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pushed back against a stronger USA line on North Korea and reiterated the country's desire for talks.

For the meantime, China has vented most of its fury on South Korea, where the USA has deployed anti-missile defenses known as Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD.

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