Tillerson begins tense China talks

BBC | Published: 13:47, Mar 18,2017

Rex Tillerson , Wang Yi

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson (L) shakes hands with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, as he arrives for a bilateral meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, Saturday, March 18, 2017. — Reuters photo

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson is meeting his Chinese counterpart Wang Li in Beijing in the final leg of his East Asia tour, which has been dominated by anxieties over North Korea.

On Friday, Tillerson warned Pyongyang that a military response would be on the table if it threatened South Korea or US forces.

President Donald Trump tweeted that North Korea was ‘behaving very badly’.

He added that China - Pyongyang's main ally - had done ‘little to help’.

Beijing is likely to express its anger at being told to rein in nuclear-armed North Korea during Tillerson's visit.

It will also voice its opposition to a new US missile defence system installed in South Korea earlier this month.

The US says the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system is designed to protect against threats from North Korea.

But China has claimed the system goes ‘far beyond’ the defence needs of the Korean peninsula.

Tillerson, a former oil executive with no prior diplomatic experience, is scheduled to meet China's two most senior diplomats on Saturday. On Sunday, he will meet Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Xi is scheduled to visit the United States next month for his first meeting with president Trump.

Some commentators expect Tillerson to downplay any tensions between the two countries ahead of that encounter.

However, a US official told Reuters that Tillerson may raise the prospect of imposing ‘secondary sanctions’ on Chinese banks and other firms that do business with North Korea in defiance of sanctions.

North Korea launched four ballistic missiles last week, and is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the US.

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