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USA and China to Hold Security Talks Amid Trade Tensions

10 November 2018

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met in Washington with their Chinese counterparts, Defense Minister Wei Fenghe and top foreign affairs official Yang Jiechi, where they discussed North Korea, Iran, the South China Sea, and Taiwan.

"The Chinese side made it clear to the United States that it should stop sending its vessels and military aircraft close to Chinese islands and reefs and stop actions that undermine Chinese authority and security interests", said Pompeo's Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, who also had sharp words over US support for Taiwan. China expects the USA "to respect China's security interests in the Asia-Pacific, China's sovereignty and development interests", Yang said Friday.

The disputed sea is a major Asian trade route, where Beijing has landfilled areas for military infrastructure.

Mattis repeated the position that "the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever global law allows".

China and the United States have put tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other's goods and U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to set tariffs on the remainder of China's US$500 billion-plus exports to the United States if the trade dispute can not be resolved.

While the Washington talks focused on security, trade is at the heart of tensions between the world's two biggest economies. "That will certainly help reduce security risks", Yang said.

Meeting former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in Beijing, Xi said he and Trump would have a "deep exchange of views" in Argentina, the official Xinhua news agency reported. "Confrontation and conflict between the two militaries will spell disaster for us all".

"We have continued concerns about China's activities and militarization in the South China Sea", Pompeo said following the talks. "The US is not trying to contain China but we want fairness and reciprocity".

USA officials said they would not halt so-called freedom-of-navigation patrols that are aimed at ensuring countries do not restrict traffic in global waters.

China and the US are now locked in an ongoing trade war as each country has introduced tariffs on goods traded between each other.

China and the United States have put tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of each other's goods and US President Donald Trump has threatened to set tariffs on the remainder of China's $500 billion-plus exports to the United States if their blistering trade dispute can not be resolved.

Trump has made reaching a denuclearization agreement with North Korea a top priority since his landmark summit in June with the totalitarian state's leader Kim Jong Un. He signed the Taiwan Travel Act earlier this year, which encourages visits "at all levels" between US and Taiwanese officials. "The door to negotiations remains open", the top Chinese diplomat said and expressed hope that the two sides find a "mutually acceptable solution" to the ongoing trade issue.

Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang told reporters at a regular briefing on Thursday that Vietnam had legal basis and historical evidence to assert its sovereignty over the Spratlys and Paracels, and asked China to stop the action.

On human rights, Pompeo voiced concern over China's treatment of religious minorities, including the mass detention of minority Uighur Muslims.

Yang on Friday noted the Chinese government attaches great importance to social and economic development in Xinjiang and Tibet and has taken a host of measures to promote stability, "unity" and people's well-being there.

USA and China to Hold Security Talks Amid Trade Tensions