Halt militarisation, urges US
Stop militarisation of disputed South China Sea, Beijing told
China told to stop mobilisation on islands in disputed waters.
WASHINGTON: Standing side by side, top US officials urged their Chinese counterparts to halt militarisation of the disputed South China Sea, drawing a rebuke from the Chinese for sending US warships close to islands claimed by Beijing.
During a round of high-level talks in Washington, the two sides aired in sometimes blunt terms many of their main differences, including a bitter trade dispute, freedom of navigation in Asia-Pacific waters, self-ruled Taiwan, and China’s crackdown on its Muslim minority in Xinjiang.
Two visiting senior Chinese officials also seized the opportunity to warn publicly that a trade war between the world’s two largest economies would end up hurting both sides and to call for keeping channels of communication open to resolve an issue that has unsettled global financial markets.
Despite the airing of grievances, the talks appeared aimed at controlling the damage to relations that has worsened in recent months and at paving the way for an encounter between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina at the end of November.
“The United States is not pursuing a Cold War or containment policy with respect to China,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a joint news conference.
Even as the United States and China confront difficult challenges, “cooperation remains essential on many issues”, he said.
The meeting paired Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis with Chinese Politburo member Yang Jiechi and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe. The annual US-China Diplo- matic and Security Dialogue was originally set for Beijing last month but had been called off amid rising tensions.
Pompeo took aim at China over its continued building of military installations on artificial islands and reefs in the South China Sea, where China insists it has sovereignty despite competing claims from some smaller neighbors.
“We have continued concerns about China’s activities and militarisation in the South China Sea,” Pompeo said following the talks.
Red fleet: China’s ‘Liaoning’ aircraft carrier and supporting ships conducting a drill in the South China Sea in this file picture. — Reuters