Korea, terrorism expected to feature at US-China dialogue

Claudine Rigal
Juin 22, 2017

In this June 20, 2017, photo, President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington. The plan has already produced agreements for China to buy USA beef and natural gas.

Last month, Beijing and Washington signed a limited deal to open new markets for each other's exports and a long-standing friend of the Chinese leadership, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, was confirmed as ambassador.

The U.S. State Department says ramping up pressure on North Korea will be a key topic at this week's high level talks with China.

Addressing in a joint press conference with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis after meeting top Chinese diplomats on Wednesday, Tillerson said, "We reiterated to China that they have a diplomatic responsibility to exert much greater economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime if they want to prevent further escalation in the region".

The discussions were meant to replace a strategic and economic dialogue held annually under the Obama administration. It rarely produced significant results.

Geng said bilateral and worldwide issues would be taken up during the dialogue, which will be led on the USA side by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Tillerson also raised the issue of human rights in China and the "militarization of outposts in the South China Sea". Divisive trade issues will be tackled separately at a later date.

The death of an American college student after his imprisonment in North Korea is threatening to overshadow high-level U.S. "China understands that the United States regards North Korea as our top security threat", Tillerson said. "At least I know China tried", Trump wrote on Twitter. He was held for almost a year-and-a-half in North Korea before being sent home in a coma last week.

USA lawmakers are pressing for a tough response against Pyongyang over its treatment of the 22-year-old university student, who was accused of trying to steal a propaganda banner while visiting with a tour group and was convicted of subversion. His family is blaming North Korea for "awful, torturous mistreatment".

While a U.S. -Chinese trade war looks unlikely, the world's two biggest economies need to work together at a time of "many uncertainties" over U.S. interest rates, Britain's pending departure from the European Union and pressure for trade controls, said former Chinese trade official Wei Jianguo. The Trump administration is considering banning travel by US citizens to North Korea, officials said Tuesday, and Trump said Warmbier's treatment was a "total disgrace".

The U.S. wants China to do more on defeating ISIS as well - in particular, helping the Iraqi government to ensure long-term stability and economic growth, according to Tillerson.

"We continue to urge China to exert its unique leverage as North Korea's largest trading partner, including by fully implementing all UN Security Council sanctions", she said, referring to efforts to halt Pyongyang's nuclear program. Such talks are a seemingly distant goal since Kim is believed to see his weapons of mass destruction as a guarantee against invasion.

Last week, what initially seemed a gesture of goodwill by Pyongyang - the release of a detained U.S. tourist - turned sour when it was revealed that 22-year-old Otto Warmbier had been brain damaged and in a coma for some time.

The State Department has been ramping up pressure on China to clamp down on companies that do business with North Korea. On Tuesday, Thornton cited Chinese restrictions on imports of North Korean coal as "notable" progress.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer painted a rosier picture on Tuesday, telling reporters that the United States is continuing to work with China to apply pressure on North Korea and said the USA has seen "positive movement" with China.

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