Door to talks with US open in principle: China

A paramilitary policeman keeping watch underneath the portrait of former Chinese chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing's Tiananmen Square yesterday, the anniversary of the June 4, 1989 crackdown on protests.
A paramilitary policeman keeping watch underneath the portrait of former Chinese chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing's Tiananmen Square yesterday, the anniversary of the June 4, 1989 crackdown on protests.PHOTO: REUTERS

Beijing's comment comes day after it warns trade deals with US void if Washington implements tariffs

BEIJING • China's door to talks is open in principle, its Foreign Ministry said yesterday, a day after Beijing warned that any trade and business deals reached with Washington would be void if the United States implemented tariffs.

The US and China have threatened tit-for-tat tariffs on goods worth up to US$150 billion (S$200 billion) each, as US President Donald Trump has pushed Beijing to open its economy further and address the US' large trade deficit with China.

The two countries ended their latest round of negotiations on Sunday, with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and his delegation leaving Beijing without making a public statement, and China making no mention of any new agreements.

Following Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He's talks with Mr Ross, China referred instead to a consensus reached last month in Washington, when Beijing agreed to increase significantly its purchases of American goods and services.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying referred questions to the Commerce Ministry when asked at a regular news briefing when and where a next round of talks might occur, and if Mr Liu was preparing to go to the US.

"But I think China's position in principle is very clear, which is that China's door to dialogue and consultations is always open," Ms Hua said. China is sincere in wanting to "appropriately resolve" the problem via talks, she added, without elaborating.

Mr Trump has in recent days angered US allies, including Canada and the European Union, with tariffs on steel and aluminium imports. Yesterday, he kept up the drumbeat on trade practices, writing on Twitter: "China already charges a tax of 16 per cent on soybeans. Canada has all sorts of trade barriers on our Agricultural products. Not acceptable!"

The heightened tensions came as China lashed out at the US yesterday over Washington's call for Beijing to disclose how many people were killed in the crackdown on the pro-democracy protests in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.

In a statement on Sunday marking the anniversary of the Tiananmen protests, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he remembered "the tragic loss of innocent lives" on June 4, 1989, when the Communist Party sent tanks to quash the peaceful student-led demonstrations.

Open discussion of the crackdown is forbidden in China. A British diplomatic cable released last year said at least 10,000 people were killed.

Mr Pompeo quoted the dissident Liu Xiaobo, a Nobel Peace laureate who died of cancer while in custody last year, as saying: "The ghosts of June 4th have not yet been laid to rest." He urged China to release those jailed for trying to keep the memory of the protests alive, and to stop harassing Tiananmen participants and their relatives.

In response, Ms Hua, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, yesterday said it had lodged an official diplomatic protest with the US on the matter. "The Chinese government has already come to a clear conclusion regarding the political disturbances that occurred in the late 1980s," she said.

Mr Pompeo's statement is "groundlessly accusing the Chinese government and interfering in China's internal affairs. The Chinese side is strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposes this," she said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2018, with the headline 'Door to talks with US open in principle: China'. Print Edition | Subscribe