With warm words from Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ended his first trip to Asia since taking office with an agreement to work together with China on North Korea and putting aside trickier issues.
China has been irritated at being repeatedly told by Washington to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes and the U.S. decision to base an advanced missile defence system in South Korea.
Beijing is also deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions towards self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own, with the Trump administration crafting a big new arms package for the island that is bound to anger China.
But meeting in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, those issues were brushed aside by Mr. Xi and Mr. Tillerson, at least in front of reporters, with Mr. Xi saying Mr. Tillerson had made a lot of efforts to achieve a smooth transition in a new era of relations.
“You said that China-U.S. relations can only be friendly. I express my appreciation for this,” Mr. Xi said.
Mr. Xi said he had communicated with President Donald Trump several times through telephone conversations and messages.
Mr. Tillerson said Mr. Trump looks forward to enhancing understanding with China and the opportunity for a visit in the future.
Speaking in Seoul on Friday, Mr. Tillerson had issued the Trump administration’s starkest warning yet to North Korea, saying in Seoul that a military response would be “on the table” if Pyongyang took action to threaten South Korean and U.S. forces.