US Secretary Pompeo’s China visit marked by frosty talks and ‘fundamental disagreement’
Top diplomats from China and the US engaged in a frosty exchange on Monday as US Secretary Mike Pompeo declared the two powers were stuck in “fundamental disagreement” over a range of issues from trade to China’s domestic and foreign policies.
The exchange, between Pompeo and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing, displayed an unusually stern tone from both sides, amid rising tension between the world’s two largest economies.
Wang, also a state councillor, accused Washington of escalating the trade conflict, interfering with Taiwan, and levelling false accusations about China’s domestic and foreign policies, according to a readout posted on China’s foreign ministry website.
“These actions have damaged our mutual trust, cast a shadow over the future of China-US relations, and go against the interests of the people of the two countries,” Wang told Pompeo.
“We demand that the US side immediately stop its wrong actions and words.”
Pompeo retorted that “the issues that you characterised, we have a fundamental disagreement”.
“We have great concerns about actions that China has taken and I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss each of those today because this is an incredibly important relationship,” Pompeo said, according to a Bloomberg report.
Last week, US Vice-President Mike Pence made a series of allegations on every aspect of China-US relations. He accused Chinese Student and Scholar Associations of being part of the Communist Party effort to foster a culture of censorship, and accused China of – among other things – military aggression in the South China Sea and interference in the US midterm elections.
Wang said cooperation should be the only choice for China and the US, but denied Beijing was interfering in US domestic affairs.
“China is committed to developing a good relationship with the US. At the same time, China also resolutely protects its sovereignty, security and development interest,” he said.
Pompeo’s meeting in Beijing was the last stop of his Asia trip, intended to revitalise the stalled denuclearisation negotiations with Pyongyang, in particular, amid concerns that worsening Sino-US relations could undermine their cooperation on North Korea.
While in Seoul, Pompeo said North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had agreed to allow inspectors into the country’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, one of the main sticking points over Pyongyang’s denuclearisation pledge.
During the meeting in Beijing, Wang said China and the US should strengthen cooperation on North Korea.
Pompeo also met with Politburo member Yang Jiechi. However, there were no plans for him to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, which was seen as a sign of worsening relations between the two powers.
During the last three days of his Asia trip, Pompeo met with top leaders from all three nations in Japan, South and North Korea.
The US diplomat also met with Xi during a similar trip to the region in June.
On a more positive note, Wang said China was still willing to solve the trade dispute with the US through negotiations, “but they must be conducted on an equal, sincere and serious basis”.
Ties between the world’s two biggest powers have experienced a sharp downturn in recent months, raising concerns that their trade war could spill over into other areas.
High-level exchanges between the two countries have been frozen, including a planned diplomatic and security meeting between US Secretary of Defence James Mattis and Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe originally scheduled for mid-October in Beijing.