China and US can be very good partners: Xi Jinping

VIDEO: REUTERS
China's President Xi Jinping (right) shakes hands with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China.
China's President Xi Jinping (right) shakes hands with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China.PHOTO: REUTERS
Chinese President Xi Jinping shaking hands with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson before their meeting at at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on March 19, 2017.
Chinese President Xi Jinping shaking hands with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson before their meeting at at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on March 19, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

Cooperation the only correct choice for both sides, says Chinese President

As China and the US under a new president look to chart a fresh course in their relationship, Chinese President Xi Jinping has called cooperation "the only correct choice".

"The common interests of China and the US far exceed our differences, and cooperation is the only correct choice for both sides," he said, adding that Sino-US ties were important to not just the two major powers but also the world.

"We need to strengthen strategic mutual trust and increase mutual awareness," Mr Xi told visiting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when they met in the Great Hall of the People yesterday.

Mr Tillerson, visiting China for the first time since taking up his post, told Mr Xi: "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 United States and set the tone for our future relationship of cooperation."

The two sides are preparing for a summit meeting between Mr Xi and his US counterpart, President Donald Trump, the first time the two will meet. They have spoken on the phone twice - after Mr Trump won the Nov 8 election and after he took office in January.

 

The leaders are expected to meet next month in the US, at a time when differences have sharpened between the two powers over issues such as the North Korean nuclear and missile programmes and maritime disputes in the East China and South China seas.

Mr Trump's accusation that China is hurting US businesses and workers with its trade policy and his threats of retaliation have added uncertainty to the relationship.

Mr Xi yesterday called for the strengthening of communication and coordination on the region's "hot issues" and for both sides to "respect each other's core interests and major concerns", according to state media.

While reports did not say whether Mr Xi named the issues, one hot potato is the North Korean nuclear issue, which Mr Tillerson and his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, spent much time discussing last Saturday.

Mr Trump has charged that the Chinese are not doing enough to curb their close ally, Pyongyang, while Beijing is strongly opposed to the deployment in South Korea of an anti-missile defence system that it says undermines its strategic security interests. Washington and Seoul say the system is to protect South Korea against the North.

While China has once again called for talks to resolve the issue, Mr Tillerson has warned that military action is an option "on the table" as the US looks for a new approach to deal with Pyongyang.

However, in a sign of some convergence between the two sides, Mr Tillerson said last Saturday that he and Mr Wang agreed to work together to bring about a "course correction" by the North away from nuclear weapons development.

Both sides recognised the urgency of finding a solution as Pyongyang improved its capacity to target neighbouring countries with its missiles. Indeed, yesterday saw the North Koreans testing a powerful new rocket engine that can be re-purposed for use in missiles.

Putting a positive spin on Sino-US relations ahead of their summit, Mr Xi said he and Mr Trump believe that their two nations "can become very good partners".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 20, 2017, with the headline 'China and US can be very good partners: Xi'. Print Edition | Subscribe