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25 November
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Asia

US-China talks between Pompeo and Yang Jiechi

Meeting takes place amid disagreement between the two countries on a range of issues

Mike Pompeo and Yang Jiechi Photo: AP

/NOVOSTIVL/ Beijing said its top diplomat Yang Jiechi had a “constructive dialogue” with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Hawaii, and the two nations have agreed to take actions to improve their worsening bilateral relations. Yang, a former ambassador to the US, arrived in Honolulu for the meeting which started at 9am local time. Deputy Secretary Stephen Biegun, the US special representative for North Korea, also attended the talks.

Yang and Pompeo had an “in-depth discussion” over China-US relations, and international and regional issues of common concern. “Both sides have fully expressed their stance and believe this is a constructive dialogue,” state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

“Both sides agreed to take action to seriously implement the consensus reached by their leaders, and to continue communication”.

The US State Department released a statement saying the US “stressed important American interests and the need for fully reciprocal dealings between the two nations across commercial, security, and diplomatic interactions”.

Pompeo “also stressed the need for full transparency and information sharing to combat the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and prevent future outbreaks,” the statement said.

The meeting was held as both nations trade accusations over a wide range of issues.

WTO nominee vows to bring US and China to negotiating tableWTO nominee vows to bring US and China to negotiating table.

On the same day the two diplomats met, US President Donald Trump signed into law a bill authorising sanctions against Chinese officials over the mass internment of Muslim ethnic minority groups in China’s northwest Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

China’s foreign ministry hit back hours later, lodging strong opposition and slamming the action as a “malicious attack” on the Chinese government’s policy in Xinjiang. The ministry vowed to launch countermeasures against the US if it did not stop intervening in China’s internal affairs.

Diplomatic observers said the meeting showed both nations did not want their bilateral ties to be derailed, especially ahead of the upcoming US presidential election. Expectations were low, however, with Beijing and Washington at odds over a wide range of issues.

These include Taiwan, Hong Kong, the arms race, hi-tech, the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, China’s Belt and Road Initiative, ideology and soft power.

“It is unlikely to see either side make significant compromises on any one or two of the above issues to enable substantial easing in tensions for a long enough period of time,” said Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor with Renmin University in Beijing who is also a government adviser.

“Maintaining [diplomatic] contact by itself cannot ensure any meaningful improvement in bilateral relations,” Shi said.

Yang made an unexpected trip to New York in August last year for talks with Pompeo, in an attempt to reduce tensions between the two nations over issues that included anti-government protests in Hong Kong, some of which had begun to turn violent.

Last year’s meeting did little to de-escalate tension. With the exception of a phase one trade deal signed by Trump and Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He in January, bilateral relations have continued to deteriorate, exacerbated by mutual recriminations over the Covid-19 pandemic.

In March, Pompeo began referring to the coronavirus as the “Wuhan virus”, infuriating Beijing and causing blowback from health officials, who warned that such nomenclature could incite racial discrimination.

Pompeo has also accused Beijing of concealing the extent and severity of the coronavirus as it took hold in China late last year. China’s government has countered those allegations, most recently with a white paper and calling them “a smear campaign against China”.

Also making global headlines today is an excerpt from a forthcoming book by former US national security adviser John Bolton claiming Trump sought help from his counterpart Chinese President Xi Jinping to win the upcoming 2020 election.

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