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Mattis, China’s leaders show a positive tone despite tensions

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EE. UU Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chinese leaders gave a very positive public tone on Wednesday, referring to increased military cooperation and open dialogue between the two powers despite security tensions and an impending trade war.

Mattis was on his first trip to China since taking the lead in the Pentagon. He met President Xi Jinping and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe. In public comments, the two sides avoided mentioning the issues that recently dominated the relationship and ate part of the talks: Taiwan, the Chinese militarization of the South China Sea and North Korea's nuclear program.

Instead, they focused on the importance of the military relationship between EE. UU and China, that Xi, who also heads the commission that oversees the People's Liberation Army, called the "model component of our overall bilateral relations."

"This is an important moment in the history of China and the United States as we work to move forward," Mattis said as he sat with Xi in front of a camera bank and photographers before their private meeting. "It reminds me how important this is for our two nations, so I'm here to keep our relationship on a great track record, going in the right direction and to share ideas with your leadership, your military leadership, as we look along the way. ahead. "

But the military relationship has not been clear either. Last month, the Pentagon withdrew its invitation for China to participate in a multinational naval exercise in what it called "an initial response" to China's fortification of artificial islands in the South China Sea. Mattis also strongly criticized China's conduct on that strategic channel at an international security forum this month, saying its location of weapons systems was designed to intimidate and coerce others in the region.

After the meetings on Wednesday, the Chinese leaders took positions on the "Regarding the issue of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, our attitude is firm and clear," quoted state broadcaster CCTV Xi . like saying. "You should not lose an inch of the territory left by our ancestors, while we are not trying to take something that belongs to others."

U.S. officials described the talks as sincere but successful. Mattis, a retired general of the Marine Corps, said the United States attaches the same degree of importance to the military relationship as China, and said the dialogue was "very open and honest."

"Areas of disagreement were identified but not necessarily," said Randy Schriver, undersecretary of defense for security affairs in Asia and the Pacific, who attended the meetings.

He said that when areas of disagreement arose, Mattis made clear the positions of EE. US, including its longstanding and widely shared opposition to the militarization of China in the South China Sea.

"It is not for a country to diminish the international navigation rights defined in international waters," said Schriver.

The meetings also occurred as a commercial war. the two largest economies in the world. The president of the United States, Donald Trump, has already imposed tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum. And next week, the United States will begin to charge $ 34 billion in Chinese goods and then add tariffs on an additional $ 16 billion in goods. Beijing has promised immediate retaliation with its own tariffs on US soy and other agricultural products.

The trade issue, which is not in Mattis' security portfolio, emerged but was not a significant part of the talks, said Dana White, Pentagon Spokesperson.

"What was consistent was the desire for a consistent military-military relationship as a stabilizing factor in the overall relationship," White said.

Schriver said that North Korea appeared at each meeting, with both sides agreeing on the overall goal of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the need to support UN Security Council resolutions on sanctions against the North.

The United States is confident that Beijing, an ally of North Korea, can help Pyongyang continue through its commitment to denuclearization at a summit between leader Kim Jong Un and Trump two weeks ago.

Uncertainties remain about the intentions of North Korea. It is still making improvements to the infrastructure at its main Nyongbyon nuclear complex, according to an analysis of commercial satellite images on June 21 by 38 North, a Washington-based website that closely monitors developments within the isolated nation.


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