Top China diplomat visiting US to discuss bilateral ties

Mr Yang will be the first senior Chinese official to visit the US since Mr Trump took office.
Mr Yang will be the first senior Chinese official to visit the US since Mr Trump took office.

BEIJING • China's top diplomat is in the US this week, becoming the highest-level Chinese official to visit since the election of President Donald Trump.

State Councillor Yang Jiechi will be meeting senior American officials to discuss "bilateral ties and issues of common concern", the Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.

Sino-US relations have been strained by Mr Trump's criticisms of Beijing's handling of North Korea and its trade policies as well as his questioning of Washington's long-standing "One China" policy.

The official Xinhua news agency confirmed Mr Yang will be the first senior Chinese official to visit the US since Mr Trump took office.

At the top of the agenda will be the arrangements for a meeting between Mr Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies told Xinhua.

But it remains unclear when the two leaders will have their first encounter, said Dr Tao Wenzhao, an expert on Sino-US relations at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He pointed out that it would be important for both countries to first address some of the issues that have divided them.

The relationship got off to a rocky start after Mr Trump accepted a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, breaking decades of diplomatic precedent. He upped the ante by suggesting he might recognise Taiwan's sovereignty unless China was willing to negotiate more favourable trade terms with the US.

Seeking to clean up the fallout, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi earlier this month at a Group of 20 foreign ministers meeting in Germany, where the American urged Beijing to help rein in Pyongyang after its nuclear and ballistic missile tests. Tensions have also eased since Mr Trump reaffirmed Washington's One China policy in a phone call with Mr Xi earlier this month.

Since then, Beijing has stepped up its pressure on Pyongyang by announcing a ban on imports of coal from North Korea - an economic lifeline for the isolated country.

On the presidential campaign trail last year, Mr Trump regularly attacked China for stealing American jobs and running a massive, unfairly won trade surplus with the US which he would reverse by whatever means necessary.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2017, with the headline 'Top China diplomat visiting US to discuss bilateral ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe