BEIJING: Chinese officials appealed to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday to repair relations they said have been damaged by US tariff hikes and support for Taiwan, as their governments press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
Pompeo said at the start of his talks with Foreign Minister Wang Yi that Washington has a “fundamental disagreement” and “great concerns” about Chinese actions and looked forward to discussing them. Reporters were then ushered from the room.
The polite but edgy tone underscored the plunge in US-Chinese relations as the administration of President Donald Trump confronts Beijing over its technology policies and territorial claims in the South China Sea. Trump also approved a weapons sale to Taiwan, the self-ruled island the Communist mainland claims as its own territory, and sanctioned a Chinese company and its leader over an arms purchase from Russia.
Those developments came as the countries have raised tariffs on tens of billions of dollars of each other’s goods in a dispute over US complaints that Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology.
At the same time, the United States and China are cooperating on efforts to pressure North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to give up his country’s nuclear weapons and long-range missile programs.
Pompeo met Wang and Yang Jiechi, a senior Cabinet official and former foreign minister, after talks Sunday with Kim in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang. Pompeo also visited Japan and South Korea, where he said Monday in Seoul that there had been “significant progress” toward an agreement for the North to give up its nuclear weapons.
Wang appealed to Pompeo to cease actions that Beijing sees as threatening its interests in order to avoid disrupting cooperation over North Korea and other issues.
“While the US side has constantly escalated trade frictions with China, it has also taken actions regarding Taiwan that harm China’s core interests,” Wang said.
In their later meeting, Yang expressed Chinese frustration with Washington while avoiding specifics, telling Pompeo relations are “facing challenges.” Washington and Beijing “should and must make the correct choices,” Yang said.
“We hope the United States and China can meet each other halfway and conscientiously fulfill the important consensus reached by the leaders of both countries,” Yang said.
In Seoul, Pompeo said he and Kim had agreed to soon begin working-level talks on details of denuclearization and placement of international inspectors at one of North Korea’s main nuclear facilities.
Pompeo said they came close to finalizing a date and venue for the next Kim-Trump meeting.
“It’s a long process,” Pompeo told reporters. “We made significant progress. We’ll continue to make significant progress and we are further along in making that progress than any administration in an awfully long time.”
Trump, tweeting from Washington shortly after Pompeo left North Korea, cited progress Pompeo had made on agreements Trump and Kim reached at their June summit in Singapore and said, “I look forward to seeing Chairman Kim again, in the near future.”
Pompeo said he and Kim had gotten “pretty close” to fixing the logistics for the summit but stressed that “sometimes that last inch is hard to close.”