US, China can expect frank talks on sea clashes: ambassador

CHINA-US-DIPLOMACY

China bluntly told the United States to stop sending ships and military aircraft close to islands claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea, during talks that set the stage for a meeting between President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping later this month.

"The United States is not pursuing a policy of Cold War containment with China", Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters following the U.S. He also made a point to mention the importance the United States places on getting China to reduce oil imports from Iran to zero, a commitment Beijing has emphatically said it will oppose.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis listen to Chinese Communist Party Office of Foreign Affairs Director Yang Jiechi speak as they hold a joint media news conference after participating in a second diplomatic and security meeting at the U.S. Department of State, Washington, U.S., November 9, 2018.

The conversations were held in an atmosphere of responsibility and respect, according to Mr. Pompeo, who acknowledged that China and the U.S. face "significant differences between our nations" in such areas as trade, due to the mutual imposition of billions of dollars in tariffs.

"The diplomatic and security dialogue is a forum for a frank, open exchange of views on a full range of issues from the South China Sea to human rights", Branstad said.

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

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.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says the US has told China that that the American military will "fly, sail and operate wherever global law allows".

The talks held on Friday in Washington were meant to prepare the way for a meeting of President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping later this month at the G20 summit in Argentina.

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Trump has also threatened to add a tariff on the remainder of China's exports to the United States, worth more than $500bn, if the dispute is not resolved soon.

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". "The United States is not trying to contain China, but we want fairness and reciprocity".

A planned trip to Beijing by Mr Mattis last month was halted as military tensions between the USA and China escalated.

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

"We have continued concerns about China's activities and militarization in the South China Sea", Pompeo said following the talks.

"We believe that no country should use any excuse to engage in militarization in the region". Trump has slapped tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese products, in a push to narrow the USA trade deficit and push back against what the US views as predatory Chinese tactics on the high technology industry.

Despite twists and turns, Sino-U.S. relations have generally maintained steady progress over the past four decades, Xi said.

Mattis called the talks "candid" and said that the two militaries looked to improve communication and avoid "miscalculation" at sea.

Yang on Friday noted the Chinese government attaches great importance to social and economic development in Xinjiang and Tibet and has taken a host of measures to promote stability, "unity" and people's well-being there.

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