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China-US relations

China’s defence minister to visit US, James Mattis says

  • Wei Fenghe’s trip to Washington comes amid continued tensions between two sides
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 October, 2018, 11:26am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 October, 2018, 10:59pm

US Defence Secretary James Mattis said his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe would visit Washington this week, following tensions between the two powers.

“I would just point out that [our] strategic competition does not imply hostility,” Mattis said at a Middle East security conference in Bahrain on Saturday, in response to a question about tensions.

“I have met with my counterpart in Beijing a month ago, I have met with him again in Singapore a week ago. He is coming to Washington next week to continue our discussions,” Mattis added.

In early October, a US defence official said that a planned visit by Mattis to China had been cancelled, because Beijing declined to make Wei available.

The cancellation came amid military tensions and an escalating dispute between the two countries over tariffs.

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In September, US tariffs came into effect, targeting Chinese goods worth US$200 billion.

But Chinese defence ministry said Thursday it is working with the Pentagon on arranging a Wei’s visit to the US.

Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian told reporters the sides were communicating closely on a visit and that Beijing hopes the US will work with it to strengthen cooperation, boost mutual trust and “control risks.”

“Chinese and US defence establishments are working closely on a visit,” Wu said.

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Beijing also rebuked Washington for its “provocative” flights of bombers over the South China and East China seas.

It also criticised US arms sales to Taiwan, blocked a planned visit by a US warship to a Hong Kong port and cancelled a meeting between the head of the Chinese navy and his American counterpart.

“I will tell you that we are committed to cooperating with China, with Russia, where we can,” Mattis said on Saturday.

“But we will not surrender freedom of navigation. We will not surrender international law.”

The US justifies naval deployments in the South China Sea on the grounds of “freedom of navigation”, causing tensions with Beijing, which claims large parts of the maritime area.

Additional reporting by Associated Press