China Wants to Resolve Disputes with US

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shakes hands with Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party before a meeting in Beijing China on Oct. 8 2018

The talks included Pompeo, U.S. defense chief Jim Mattis, Chinese Politburo member Yang Jiechi and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe.

Standing side by side, top US officials urged their Chinese counterparts on Friday to halt militarization of the disputed South China Sea, drawing a rebuke from the Chinese for sending USA warships close to islands claimed by Beijing in the strategic waterway.

While the Washington talks focused on security, trade is at the heart of tensions between the world's two biggest economies.

Yun Sun, a China expert at the Stimson Center think tank, said Beijing is uncertain about what exactly Trump wants out of a trade deal, but hopes that with US midterm elections out of the way, the mercurial American president may be more inclined to reach a compromise.

In late September, U.S. and Chinese vessels almost collided off near a disputed reef.

"The United States is not pursuing a Cold War or containment policy with respect to China", U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a joint news conference. China expects the U.S. "to respect China's security interests in the Asia-Pacific, China's sovereignty and development interests", Yang said Friday.

Meeting US national security adviser John Bolton in Washington ahead of those talks, Yang said on Wednesday that the two sides should "properly manage differences and carefully prepare to ensure positive results in the Argentina meeting", China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The talks were due to be held in Beijing last month but were postponed after Washington announced new arms sales to Taiwan, and after a Chinese destroyer came close to the USS Decatur in late September in what the U.S. Navy called an "unsafe and unprofessional maneuver".

While the United States' representatives expressed their concern over what they referred to as growing militarization in the South China Sea and insisted that Beijing withdraw its missiles from the disputed Spratly Islands ("Nansha" in Chinese), Yang pointed out that China had "indisputable sovereignty" over the archipelago and its adjacent waters.

Top on that list is the South China Sea, where warships from the two countries recently had a near-collision, and Taiwan, where the U.S. has been signaling a policy shift with more frequent arms sales and the sailing of ships near the island.

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The US has since pushed back, insisting it will continue to "fly, sail and operate wherever global law allows". All three are also claimed by Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Meeting former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in Beijing, Xi said he and Trump would have a "deep exchange of views" in Argentina, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

"Even as the two countries (US and China) confront important differences in the bilateral relationship, their cooperation remains essential on many, many central issues", Mr. Pompeo said.

Still Pompeo also was clear in addressing US concerns, including Beijing's increasingly assertive posture in the South China Sea.

While Pompeo spoke little about trade in his public comments, Yang said he hoped the two sides would find a mutually acceptable solution on the issue "before long".

It may be recalled that President Trump had slapped $250 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese goods, accusing Beijing of nefarious trading practices, prompting retaliatory measures.

Trump has railed against China for what he sees as intellectual property theft, entry barriers to U.S. business and a gaping trade deficit.

Calling Kissinger an old friend of the Chinese people, Xi applauded the US diplomat's contribution to bilateral relations.

Pompeo also reiterated USA criticism of China's "repression of religious groups", citing treatment of Buddhists in Tibet and minority Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region that has drawn condemnation from human rights groups. Yang insisted that Chinese people have freedom of religion, and that "foreign countries have no right to interfere".

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