Jim Mattis arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for the first visit of a US Secretary of Defense. UU In four years, as the Trump administration advances to roll back the country's growing economic and military influence.
Mattis, who plans to visit also South Korea and Japan are expected to put pressure on China's leaders to continue cooperating in North Korea's nuclear program, despite tensions between the world's two largest economies. everything, from the trade to Taiwan. Before leaving for Asia on Sunday, Mattis said he intended to "have a conversation."
"I want to go in now without basically poisoning the well at this point," Mattis told reporters. "I want to go in and listen a lot." The Associated Press said Mattis arrived Tuesday afternoon.
The trip comes at a charged diplomatic moment, as President Donald Trump prepares to enact tariffs and investment restrictions to curb what the White House says is China's "economic aggression." At the same time, security disputes have been building up between the two sides, the Defense Department calls China a "strategic competitor" and rescues the country's participation in annual international military exercises that begin this week. near Hawaii.
& # 39; Full-fledged confrontation & # 39;
Still, Trump needs the help of Chinese President Xi Jinping to keep North Korea committed to the disarmament talks. Xi received Kim Jong Un in Beijing last week – China's third trip to the North Korean leader since March – in a demonstration of China's enduring influence as the main trading partner and ally of the war.
Before Mattis' visit, the state of China … Run Media said dialogue was necessary to ensure that disputes do not become hot spots. "Although it is natural that large countries like China and the USA have areas of competition, both should have the wisdom and political will to control their rivalry, so that the worst possible scenario of a full-blown confrontation between them is You can avoid it, "the English-language China Daily said in an editorial on Monday.
Since Xi received Mattis' predecessor, Chuck Hagel, in 2014, China launched a second aircraft carrier and outlined plans to build a "world-class" military power by 2050. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has replaced the "pivot to Asia" of Barack Obama with an "Indo-Pacific" policy that seeks to attract India to the regional security framework as a counterweight to China.
Oh Ei Sun, senior advisor on international affairs at the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute in Kuala Lumpur, said China was seeking guidance from Mattis on the administration of Trump n defense and foreign policy goals . "The strategic position of the US against China, and indeed the most important parts of the world, is going through a great paradigm shift at this time, from that of a global policeman to a position of greater commercial focus , "Oh said.
The arrival of Mattis is just one of a series of diplomatic visits since Trump held an unprecedented summit with Kim two weeks ago in Singapore. The Secretary of State of the United States, Mike Pompeo, was in Beijing to inform the Chinese leaders about the visit days after the meeting.
While China undertook to play a "constructive" role in the talks, the country also urged the United Nations Security Council to review sanctions on Kim's regime to facilitate negotiations. Trump also suggested that his attempts to pressure China on trade could cause him to cooperate less in his campaign of "maximum pressure" against North Korea.
The defense secretary was expected to leave for Seoul on Thursday, where he would likely find questions about Trump's decision to stop joint military exercises with South Korea. Then he will go to Japan, the closest ally of the United States in the region, before returning to Washington.
Mattis could also address the concerns of the United States over China's latest measures to exercise control over the disputed South China Sea, including the deployment of military aircraft and missile batteries. Speaking at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore earlier this month, Mattis said such actions were causing the United States to reconsider its "cooperative stance" towards China and warned that Beijing risks "greater consequences" in the long term.
The Defense The Department faces increasing pressure from US lawmakers to increase military support for the island of Taiwan, which is democratically administered and China considers a province. The Pentagon also protested the cases of US pilots injured by lasers, a claim that has been denied by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"China-US military exchanges are important for bilateral relations and have progressed continuously," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a regular press conference in Beijing on Tuesday. "China and the US will exchange views on bilateral and military relations."
Graham Webster, senior member of the Paul Tsai Center at the Yale Law School, said a key question was whether Trump's tariff actions would lead Beijing to link economic problems and security cooperation. "If they do, I think it's a sign that relations between the US and China are going to have a much broader divide," Webster said.
– With the help of Peter Martin, David Tweed, and Dandan Li
( Updates the headline and the first paragraph with the arrival of Mattis. )