US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping next week in Beijing to critical issues affecting Sino-US relations in the next four years, a senior State Department official said on Tuesday. “He is going to talk about substance. He is going to talk about the issues, begin charting for a relationship between the US and China for the next four years,” Danny Russel, the top East Asia diplomat at the US State Department said in his last media briefing as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. To quickly establish a direct communication line between the leadership of the two countries would be critical, said Russel, adding Tillerson’s meeting with Xi “plays a big part in that process”. Tillerson’s visit to the region comes as the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system (THAAD) in South Korea has drawn fierce criticism from Beijing. China vows ‘resolute’ measures as US deploys first parts of THAAD missile system to South Korea Tillerson is also likely to urge Beijing, which has considerable economic leverage on Pyongyang, to strengthen pressure on North Korea. The State Department announced that Tillerson will travel to Japan, South Korea, and China from March 15 to 19, marking his first visit to the East Asia and Pacific region as the Secretary of State. According to the statement, Tillerson will arrive in Bejing on March 18, three days after the annual National People’s Congress of China concludes. Tillerson will possibly be the first senior US official under Donald Trump’s administration to meet the Chinese president. Other topics up for discussion would be the South China Sea and Taiwan. In the last few weeks, Tillerson has met China’s top diplomat, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Russel said these meetings and Trump’s earlier telephone call with Xi were “manifestations of the willingness on both sides” to work on cooperation and problem solving. Russel said that in the previous meetings, the two sides discussed cross-strait issues and Trump’s affirmation of the one-China policy in the phone call with Xi. Russel also said Trump’s phone call to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was “an expression of America’s warm affection and support for the Taiwan people”. Trump’s secretary of state nominee Tillerson wants to deny Beijing access to South China Sea islands Since President Trump took office in January 20, the meeting between the two state leaders have been highly anticipated, especially given the wide range of issues between the two powers. In the wake of a series of accusations made by Trump on China taking advantage of international trade issues, concerns over the future of the annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) have been raised. “I’ve recommended the Trump Administration to take a serious look at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue,” says Russel, who endorses the outcomes of the meeting and says it has been acting as an “action forcer.” By saying S&ED is not the only model to enhance the Sino-China corporation, Russel suggested that the Trump administration may modify the format of the meeting to be more efficient. Tsai says call with Trump does not reflect US policy change A few months after President Xi Jinping took office in late 2012, Obama hosted the Sunnyside summit to meet Xi in the US . “The question of when and where the two presidents might meet is something that’s under consideration I’m sure in both capitals, and that’s a decision that has to be made by theWhite House and the Chinese President’s office,” said Russel.