Rex Tillerson meets China’s top envoy amid trade and North Korean tensions

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi on Thursday as concerns of a US-Sino trade war and North Korean nuclear ambitions run high

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 February, 2018, 2:35am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 February, 2018, 5:29am

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi for a working lunch on Thursday amid tensions over a possible US-China trade war and North Korean nuclear threats.

Update, February 10:

In the meeting, the two sides reconfirmed their “commitment to keep up pressure on North Korea’s illegal nuclear weapons and missile programmes” and “discussed the need to achieve a fair and reciprocal bilateral economic relationship”, according to a statement released by the US State Department.

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These topics will top the agenda of the next bilateral diplomatic and security dialogue, to be held sometime in the second quarter this year, the US State Department said. No other details of the meeting were divulged.

Speaking before the meeting, Tillerson said: “We’ve had many, many good discussions, and we’re going to continue these very important discussions about US-China relations. And I very much warmly, warmly welcome him here.”

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Yang responded by thanking Tillerson and promising to “carry out the agreement between our two heads of state and push forward our very important relationship.”

The details of what the pair discussed in the meeting have yet to emerge, but it comes after multiple US investigations into China’s trade practices.

Former policymakers have warned that President Donald Trump’s administration will soon announce retaliatory measures based on these investigations.

In August, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer launched the Section 301 investigation into Chinese regulations that force US companies operating in China to transfer technology and intellectual property rights to local business partners.

The countries are also divided on how to deal with North Korea, with China repeatedly warning the US not to attempt a pre-emptive strike on the country and Trump reportedly mulling precisely that.

Concerns were also raised at the end of January, when a prospective US ambassador to South Korea was dropped from his planned post, reportedly because he objected to the idea of a so-called bloody nose strike to cow Kim Jong-un. 

Trump’s search for a US ambassador to Seoul, a position that has been vacant since he took office, continues.