China's President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) before their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday. -AFP
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pledged in talks Sunday to work to strengthen a relationship strained by disputes over North Korea and trade.
Xi met Tillerson in Beijing just hours after nuclear-armed North Korea tested the US-China relationship anew by announcing a provocative rocket engine trial, and with delicate negotiations under way for a Xi summit with President Donald Trump.
Xi told Tillerson that he and Trump had resolved in a phone call last month to make joint efforts to advance China-US cooperation, and we believe that we can make sure the relationship will move ahead in a constructive fashion in the new era.
I'm confident that as long as we can do this the relationship can surely move in the right direction, Xi said. En route to Beijing, Tillerson visited US allies Japan and South Korea where he declared Washington would drop the failed approach of strategic patience with Pyongyang -- adding that US military action against the North was possible.
That marked a sharp break with China, which favors careful diplomacy over heated rhetoric.Relations have also been strained by China's fierce opposition to a US missile defense system being rolled out in South Korea and Trump's Twitter accusation on Friday that China was not doing enough to control Pyongyang, its neighbor and historically.
Trump has also repeatedly accused China of unfair trade practices. But Tillerson has made nice while in Beijing. We know that through further dialogue we will achieve a greater understanding that will lead to a ... strengthening the ties between China and the United States and set the tone for our future relationship of cooperation, he told Xi.
Earlier Sunday North Korean state media said the isolated regime had tested a powerful engine hailed by leader Kim Jong-Un as a new birth for its rocket industry, which experts view as cover for developing intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The announcement's timing appeared intended to sour Tillerson's China visit.On Saturday Tillerson said after talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi that tensions on the Korean peninsula had reached a dangerous level.
Tillerson and Wang pledged to work together to denuclearise Kim's rouge regime, but offered no clear way forward. Wang, however, chided Tillerson over his recent tough talk, saying we hope all parties, including our friends from the United States, can size up the situation in a cool-headed fashion. It was not clear whether Xi and Tillerson discussed North Korea.