Beijing: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has appeared with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to say the two countries share the view that tensions on the Korean Peninsula have reached “a rather dangerous level”.
Speaking to the media after a meeting in Beijing on Saturday, Mr Tillerson said the US and China would work together to bring North Korea to “make a course correction and move away from the development of nuclear weapons”.
“We share a common view and a sense that tensions on the peninsula are quite high right now and that things have reached a rather dangerous level, and we’ve committed ourselves to doing everything we can to prevent any type of conflict from breaking out,” Mr Tillerson said.
Mr Wang agreed, but also had some advice for his American counterpart.
“No matter what happens, we have to stay committed to diplomatic means as a way to seek peaceful settlement,” he said.
“We hope all parties, including our friends from the United States, could size up the situation in a cool-headed and comprehensive fashion, and arrive at a wise decision.”
Mr Tillerson and Mr Wang both tried to strike a positive tone, repeating the mantra that US-China relations were founded on the principles of avoiding conflict and confrontation, and promoting mutual respect and “win-win cooperation.”
That’s a far cry from the sort of language US President Donald Trump employed on the campaign trail.
Mr Wang called their talks “candid, pragmatic and productive,” while Mr Tillerson talked about a “constructive and results-oriented relationship.”
The Secretary of State also talked of a trading relationship that is “fair and pays dividends both ways,” made a glancing reference to their maritime disputes and said his country would continue to “advocate for universal human rights and religious freedom.”
The two men also said they were working toward a face-to-face meeting between Mr Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping to build on a cordial telephone conversation between the pair in February.
“We do look forward to this future opportunity for the two leaders to meet,” Mr Tillerson said at the beginning of a meeting with State Councillor Yang Jiechi, who outranks Mr Wang as China’s top diplomat.
“The better they know one another the stronger will be our bilateral relations as well, because they can provide direction and guidance to both of our governments on how we can work more closely together to strengthen this very important relationship,” Mr Tillerson said.
The comments from Mr Tillerson were more moderate than his warning a day earlier in South Korea that “all options are on the table” to deal with North Korea, and that the US would take military action if needed.
Mr Wang had last week likened the US and North Korea to two accelerating trains heading for a collision with neither willing to give way. Mr Tillerson meets China’s President Xi Jinping on Sunday.
China has said a return to negotiations with North Korea could occur if the US and South Korea agreed to abandon military drills in the region, and North Korea agreed to halt its rogue missile development.
But the proposal had been swiftly rejected by the White House, which is said to be considering secondary sanctions against Chinese companies that trade with North Korea.
US President Donald Trump tweeted before Mr Tillerson’s arrival in Asia that China did nothing to help to stop North Korea. North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been “playing” the United States for years. China has done little to help!??? Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 17 March 2017