China-US relations

China sends top envoy to US as trade war looms and North Korea risks a bloody nose

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 12:22pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 March, 2018, 1:07pm

Top Chinese and US diplomats will meet later this week as a trade war looms and tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme continue to strain relations between Beijing and Washington.

Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi will be in the United States on Thursday and Friday at the invitation of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang announced late on Monday.

China and the US had expressed willingness to maintain and strengthen relations contacts and exchanges, Geng said. And Yang would exchange views on issues related to Sino-US ties as well as international and regional matters of mutual concern.

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There are growing trade frictions between the world’s two biggest economies, with China’s Ministry of Commerce launching an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation into imports of US sorghum imports on Sunday.

That action followed US President Donald Trump’s decision to slap steep tariffs on imports of solar panels and washing machines and a separate investigation into Chinese aluminium alloy sheet, the first self-initiated US probe in decades.

Jia Qingguo, dean of Peking University’s school of international studies, said Yang’s visit reflected China’s worries about the prospect of a trade war.

“This is a sensitive time for China-US relations … communication is important in stabilising the relationship,” Jia said.

But Beijing would not shy away from retaliatory moves if Washington were to take further action, he said.

“The Chinese side does not want to see all-out confrontation on trade, but it will respond in proportion to [the US’ move],” he said.

North Korea army parade to show off military, nuclear power on eve of South’s Winter Olympics

Wu Xinbo, director of Fudan University’s Centre for American Studies, said that if ties deteriorated China could consider cutting US imports of agricultural products, aircraft and hi-tech goods.

Yang’s trip also comes as the Trump administration is reportedly considering a “bloody nose” limited military strike against North Korea as part of its “maximum pressure” policy against Pyongyang.

That is despite higher hopes of peace talks on the Korean peninsula after the announcement that one of North Korea’s highest ranking officials, Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, would arrive in South Korea on Friday, heading a delegation of North Korean officials. His visit will coincide with the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics.

Jia said Yang was also likely to discuss with his US counterparts about the next step in addressing the threat from Pyongyang after the detente in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.