US and China should be partners instead of squabbling: Beijing official

China's Vice-Foreign Minister Le Yucheng speaking at the annual Xiangshan Forum in Beijing, China, on Oct 22, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - The United States and China should be partners and cooperate instead of squabbling, a senior official from China's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday (Oct 22).

Both sides have made some progress at recent trade talks, and there is some hope a partial trade agreement could be reached, said Vice-Foreign Minister Le Yucheng.

The comments are the latest positive signal from Beijing as both sides work towards a partial trade deal, after negotiators met earlier this month in Washington.

"It is hopeful that some agreement will be reached. All this shows that China and the US can and should be partners for greater cooperation," said Mr Le.

He was speaking at the annual Xiangshan Forum in Beijing, a security summit that China models as its answer to the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

The three-day forum, which ended on Tuesday, was attended by more than 600 representatives from 68 countries.

They included about 30 defence chiefs - among them Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who also spoke at the summit on Tuesday.

Mr Le, who was delivering a special speech on China's 70th anniversary, said as long as Beijing and Washington "respect each other and seek equal cooperation, there is no disagreement that cannot be resolved between China and the US".

Beijing has said that officials are working on the text of an agreement - expected to be inked by US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next month in Chile.

Asked how China views its relations with the US, given that Washington has labelled Beijing a "strategic competitor", Mr Le pointed to the achievements both sides have made through cooperation.

"Such achievements would be unimaginable in the early days of China-US relations. Why would we toss away the achievements of such good cooperation?" he said.

In his speech, Mr Le repeated an oft-cited point by Chinese officials at the forum saying that China's development would not come at the expense of others. But the country would continue to safeguard its core interests, he said.

"No one should expect China to swallow the bitter consequences of undermining its interests, whether on land or at sea, whether it is Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang or Tibet," he said.

Dr Wang Huiyao, president of the Beijing-based Centre for China and Globalisation think-tank, said it was a good sign that a high-level Chinese official had expressed positive sentiments about the bilateral relationship.

"If we get a partial agreement it may reset the downward spiral and relations may start to improve. And if there is no military conflict, relations can also move constructively forward," said Dr Wang.

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