U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Chinese President Xi Jinping Saturday, as well as with State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
The two politicians discussed a number of key issues at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, including President Donald Trump’s state visit to China in November. Mr. Xi said that he attaches great importance to the upcoming visit and had very warm words for the President, whom he describes as a friend.
“Currently the most important event in our bilateral relations is President Trump’s China visit in November,” Xi told Secretary Tillerson. “His visit will be a major opportunity for the development of China-U.S. relations.” He added, “I look forward to working with him to outline and advance our bilateral relations in the years to come.”
Mr. Xi also said that China-U.S. ties had become much more stable, and that he maintained regular and productive communication with President Trump. They are focusing strongly on joint cooperation, mutual respect and implementing political consensus effectively.
Secretary Tillerson conveyed President Trump’s greetings to Mr. Xi and told him that the President is looking forward to his first official state visit to China.
The two world leaders met for the first time at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida earlier this year and again at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany in July.
Relations between the U.S. and China have strengthened amid tensions over dealing with the ever-deepening North Korea crisis. President Trump has applied significantly more pressure on China than former President Barack Obama, or his predecessors, to halt its nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missile programs.
North Korea angered world leaders by conducting its sixth and most powerful underground nuclear test on September 3.
Since the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York last week, Beijing has begun implementing its harshest ever sanctions against its ally. These include dramatically limiting refined petroleum exports from China to North Korea as well as banning all textile imports from the hermit kingdom.
President Xi has also ordered all North Korean businesses operating in its national territory to close by January 2018. The People’s Republic of China accounts for around 90 percent of the DPRK’s global trade, so the new sanctions will undoubtedly place profound pressure on its neighbor.
However, in spite of the inflammatory rhetoric by President Trump, Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in recent weeks, China has insisted that its punitive sanctions must be a precursor to peace talks between Washington and Pyongyang.
Although initial relations with China under the new U.S. President were relatively tense — Donald Trump repeatedly criticized Chinese trade practices and currency manipulation during his campaign — the President now appears to be building a much closer, mutually respectful and beneficial relationship with Beijing.
Tucker is a foreign correspondent and media analyst for Not Liberal.