Home / World / Americas

Hopes pinned on potential China-US meeting

By ZHANG YUNBI | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-02-16 21:50

As Foreign Minister Wang Yi and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson may potentially meet later this week, analysts say the two sides should grab the chance and talk on key topics, such as the South China Sea issue, to avoid misjudgment.

Both senior diplomats are attending the Group 20 foreign ministers' meeting in Bonn, Germany, an annual gathering that also hosts two-way meetings on its sidelines.

Amid simmering tension on the Korean peninsula, the US-China diplomat meeting, if it takes place, will be the first high-level one since Donald Trump entered the Oval Office on Jan 20.

Analysts highlight their need to meet partly because operational-level contacts should start following last week's telephone conversation between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Both the Foreign Ministry and US State Department, respectively, on Tuesday announced Wang and Tillerson would be heading to Bonn.

When asked on Thursday whether they will meet on the sidelines, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he has no information available for release.

Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, worried China before taking office as he told a Senate hearing that the US should "block" China's access to latter's islands in the South China Sea.

Even after the new US administration took office, the Pentagon sent mixed signals on the South China Sea issue.

Earlier this month, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis encouraged resolving the issue through talks, while US Navy officials are reportedly requesting that Trump agree on a plan to resume US incursion into China's territorial waters there.

Wu Xinbo, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, said the meeting on the sidelines, if it occurs, will be an ideal occasion for Tillerson to deliver views as a career diplomat rather than an amateur who spoke tough words against China.

The first task at the meeting is to "map out a roadmap" for the two key foreign affairs departments, as both organs take charge of a range of key dialogue institutions between the two countries.

On specific issues likely to be raised, Wu estimated that the Chinese side will focus on the South China Sea situation "to offset the US defense authorities' prompting Trump to act radically in the waters there".

Fan Jishe, a researcher on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, noted that the potential meeting is of larger significance at this moment as "a range of different views remain between Beijing and Washington, and the dialogue on a working level by departments in charge is key to stabilizing the two-way ties".

Given Tillerson's harsh remarks on the South China Sea before taking office and "some radical signals sent recently by Washington", the meeting offers a chance to update positions, Fan said.

The US side may raise the Korean peninsula situation at the potential meeting, given the missile launch earlier this week by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Fan added.

After the G20 meeting, Wang will remain in Germany attend the annual Munich Security Conference, an important annual forum on international strategy and security.

Most Viewed in 24 Hours