Tillerson meets Xi Jinping, says Trump looking forward ‘to enhancing understanding’

Chinese president and US secretary of state agree that a cooperative relationship is ‘the only correct option’ for both nations

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 March, 2017, 11:51am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 March, 2017, 5:17pm

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson both said on Sunday that China and the US could have a “cooperative” relationship.

Warm words were exchanged as Tillerson and Xi met in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People at the end of Tillerson’s first visit to China after taking office last month.

Xi said he and US President Donald Trump had reached consensus and understanding to enhance exchanges, and that he believed cooperation between the US and China was “the only correct option”.

“We should properly handle and manage sensitive issues to promote the healthy and stable development of Sino-US relationship from a new start,” Xi told Tillerson, who was rounding up his first official tour to East Asia amid increasing tensions with North Korea.

Xi said the two countries could be good partners, and as long as both sides maintained this common understanding, ties would proceed “in the right way”.

Tillerson said Trump looked forward to enhancing understanding with China and to the opportunity of a visit in the future.

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The US would like to the develop relationships in a non-confrontational, mutually respectful and cooperative manner, Tillerson said.

The Secretary of State said Trump placed a “very high value on the communications that have already occurred” between the two presidents.

“He looks forward to enhancing that understanding in the opportunity for a visit in the future,” Tillerson said.

“We know that through further dialogue we will achieve a greater understanding that will lead to a strengthening of the ties between China and the United States, and set the tone for our future relationship of cooperation.”

Although Tillerson had warned before his visit to China that the US may take pre-emptive military action against North Korea, he refrained from making strong comments during his two-day visit.

Xi said Tillerson had made much effort to achieve a smooth transition in a new era of relations.

“You said that China-US relations can only be friendly. I express my appreciation for this,” Xi said.

Xi added he had communicated with Trump several times.

“We both believe that China-US cooperation is the direction we both strive for. We are both expecting a new era for constructive development.”

In an interview shortly before his Beijing trip with the conservative US website Independent Journal Review, Tillerson said Trump and Xi should hold further conversations.

“[The] overall China-US relationship really needs better clarity that can only be achieved by a meeting between our two leaders – a face-to-face meeting – and some time for them to be together and some time for us to exchange views,” he said.

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On Saturday, Tillerson had meetings with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and State Councillor Yang Jiechi. He described his two-hour discussion with Wang as “a very extensive ­exchange” on the escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula and that the two sides had agreed to work together to stop Pyongyang making further provocations.