US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo faced a testy exchange with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing on Monday, days after a blistering US denunciation of the Asian power’s global and domestic policies.
Pompeo and Foreign Minister Wang Yi highlighted the schism after the chief US diplomat arrived in Beijing on the final leg of an Asian trip focused on North Korea’s nuclear issue.
Meeting at the Diaoyutai Guest House, Wang told Pompeo that the United States has “stepped up rhetoric over trade tensions” after a raft of tit-for-tat tariffs on billion of dollars in US and Chinese goods.
He also accused the United States of making “a series of moves” on Taiwan — a self-ruling democratic island that Beijing considers a rebel province — and “other issues” that hurt Chinese sovereignty.
“These actions have affected the mutual trust between both sides, and has cast a shadow over the prospect of China-US relations, which completely go against the interest of our two peoples,” Wang said.
“We require that the US stop such misguided actions,” he said, adding that the two countries should pursue cooperation “and not descend into conflict and confrontation.”
Wang and Pompeo met after US Vice President Mike Pence delivered a searing speech on Thursday accusing China of military aggression, commercial theft and rising human rights violations as he cast the Communist regime as a villain bent on interfering in upcoming US elections.
The United States has also angered China with arms sales to Taiwan and new rules allowing top-level US officials to travel to the island, though Washington still recognises Beijing over Taipei.
Responding to Wang’s remarks, Pompeo said he wanted to come to Beijing to “have discussions”.
“The issues that you characterised, we have fundamental disagreements,” Pompeo told Wang.
“We have great concerns over the 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 also invoked the cancellation of a meeting between US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his Chinese counterpart, which was supposed to take place this month in Beijing.
“I regret that the strategic dialogue between our two countries is something you all chose not to undertake,” he said.
But Wang retorted: “The strategic dialogue was not called off by the Chinese. I am stating a fact.”
No Xi meeting
The two diplomats had warmer words regarding efforts to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. China has backed United Nations sanctions on its Cold War-era ally, though it recently called for them to be eased.
Wang said the North Korean issue shows that Beijing and Washington “can and should increase communication and cooperation”.
Pompeo said he expected to have “good, candid, frank conversations” with Wang about his meeting Sunday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang.
But unlike his last visit to Beijing in June, Pompeo did not have a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
He met with senior Communist Party foreign affairs official Yang Jiechi, who recalled that Beijing has lodged official protests with the United States to express its “dissatisfaction” over a series of US actions.
“China and US relations are at an important juncture and facing challenges,” Yang said. “We hope the US and China will be on the same page.”
Pompeo replied that it was “important that we listen to each other, work through and find constructive solutions so we can find a good outcome for both our countries.”
He later headed to the airport to return to Washington.