North Korea

China ‘willing to work with US’ to ease tensions over North Korea, top diplomat tells Trump

State Councillor Yang Jiechi tells US president that Beijing will ‘maintain communication’, Trump says he is keen to ‘enhance cooperation’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 4:43pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 June, 2017, 1:48am

China’s top diplomat told Donald Trump that Beijing was willing to keep working with Washington to defuse tensions on the Korean peninsula, days after the US leader implied that Chinese efforts had failed.

The meeting between State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Trump at the White House on Thursday also came after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged China to step up diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea over its nuclear weapons.

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The meeting was reported by China’s foreign ministry. There was no White House statement on the get-together, which had not been mentioned in the president’s daily schedule.

“China is willing to maintain communication and coordination with relevant parties including the United States to ease tensions on the peninsula,” Yang said, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.

Trump told Yang he looked forward to “enhancing cooperation” with China on the denuclearisation of North Korea, the ministry said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Yang and top General Fang Fenghui met with Tillerson and US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis at the State Department to discuss North Korea and other regional issues.

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Hours before the talks began, Trump sent a tweet that appeared to suggest China’s President Xi Jinping had come up short on reining in its neighbour.

“While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!” the tweet said.

Trump did not elaborate on what might happen next if China, by far North Korea’s most important trading and diplomatic partner, is out of ideas.

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The US president, who frequently denounced China on the campaign trail, has turned to Beijing to help pressure its ally North Korea, prompting concern among Asian partners that America might go easy on Beijing over its expansive claims in the disputed South China Sea.

Trump, who met with Xi at his luxury resort in Florida in April, also confirmed he would visit China later this year, the Chinese foreign ministry said.

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Tillerson said on Wednesday that China had a “diplomatic responsibility to exert much greater economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime if they want to prevent further escalation in the region”.

For their part, the Chinese envoys pressed for negotiations, proposing again a “dual-track approach” in which North Korea would suspend its nuclear and missile activities while the United States and South Korea would halt large-scale military exercises.

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The meetings between the two sides followed the death of Otto Warmbier on Monday, the American student who returned to the US last week in a coma after being detained in North Korea for 18 months.