China hails Sino-US contacts after Tillerson visit

In his first visit to China since he took his office, Tillerson also had met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Saturday.

Rex Tillerson concluded his first trip to Asia as secretary of state, sounding optimistic about the prospects for USA cooperation with China on the North Korean nuclear issue.

He described Tillerson's statement as a kind of attempt to lay the groundwork (for a new geopolitical reality in the region); something that he said was made in connection with North Korea's latest ballistic missile tests. Experts say it could have a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the US within a few years.

Xi told Tillerson that there are more shared interests between the USA and China than there are disputes or conflicts.

His trip has been dominated by concerns over North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons programme.

Asked about the possibility of using military force against North Korea, he said, "all of the options are on the table". It recently proposed a swap: North Korea would freeze its nuclear and missile programs in exchange for a halt of American and South Korean military exercises. "They have been "playing" the United States for years".

Unnamed South Korean officials had told the Korea Herald newspapers that Tillerson's "fatigue" was to blame for not having a meal with any officials in Seoul, as opposed to his lengthier meetings with Japanese counterparts.

In December 2016, the UN Security Council imposed new sanctions on North Korea, which aim to cut the country's export revenue in response to its repeated nuclear tests.

It was not clear whether Xi and Tillerson discussed North Korea.

Tillerson's trip is also expected to highlight the Trump administration's lack of concern with human rights overseas, formerly a key element of USA policy toward China and a major irritant for Beijing. North Korea is banned by the worldwide community from pursuing nuclear and missile programmes but has defiantly ploughed ahead.

But the two men also said they were working toward a face-to-face meeting between Trump and President Xi Jinping, to build on a cordial telephone conversation between the pair in February.

Last month, China potentially deprived Mr Kim's regime of a crucial source of foreign currency by banning imports of North Korean coal for the rest of the year. The North conducted two nuclear test explosions and 24 ballistic missile tests previous year.

Sino-US relations have been strained since president Donald Trump came to power, with the Chinese irritated by his tweets saying China was not doing enough to help resolve the North Korean crisis.

But despite the failure of previous talks, and North Korea's chronic inability to keep previous promises, China insists that dialogue remains the only option. He further sounded skeptical about the idea of negotiating a freeze that would leave the North with "significant capabilities" that could threaten the region and USA forces. Experts say it could have a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the US within a few years.

Wang said that includes strictly implementing United Nations sanctions on North Korea, while seeking a resumption of six-party negotiations, with the ultimate goal of ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.

"The diplomatic and other efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea to a point of denuclearization have failed. That pathway can only be achieved by denuclearizing, giving up their weapons of mass destruction, and only then will we be prepared to engage with them in talks", he said.

I appreciate very much the time that Foreign Minister Wang and Senior Councilor Yang have extended to me on this visit.

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