Top US, Chinese diplomats meet to discuss relationship

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (right) shakes hands with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi before their meeting.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (right) shakes hands with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi before their meeting.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi on Tuesday (Feb 28) discussed improving and maintaining a “mutually beneficial economic relationship” between the United States and China, the State Department said.

Tillerson and Yang, China’s top diplomat, affirmed the importance of “regular high-level engagement” between the two countries during their meeting in Washington, and discussed North Korea’s nuclear programme, the State Department said in a statement.

Their meeting was the latest exchange aimed at resetting relations between the world’s two largest economies following the Trump administration’s rocky start.

On Monday, Yang met at the White House with US President Donald Trump, who has attacked China on issues from trade to the South China Sea.

Yang, who outranks China’s foreign minister, and Trump discussed shared security interests and a possible meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to a senior US administration official.

The State Department said Yang invited Tillerson to visit Beijing, and that Tillerson expressed interest in doing so.

Yang’s visit to the United States follows a phone call with Tillerson last week, during which the two affirmed the importance of a constructive US-China relationship.

Their talks follow months of strong rhetoric from Trump, who has accused China of unfair trade policies, criticised its island-building in the strategic South China Sea, and accused it of doing too little to constrain its neighbour, North Korea.

In December, Trump incensed Beijing by saying the United States did not have to stick to the “one China” policy, under which Washington acknowledges the Chinese position that there is only one China, of which Taiwan is a part. He later agreed in a phone call with Xi to honour the policy.

Last week, in an interview with Reuters, Trump urged China to do more to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes. China later dismissed Trump’s remarks, saying the crux of the matter was a dispute between Washington and Pyongyang