Mattis Meets with Chinese President in Beijing

Defense Secretary James Mattis met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, amid tensions between the U.S. and China.

The Chinese president said the country’s relations with the United States were among the most important in the world, as they have recently started deteriorating due to trade tensions and mutual suspicions by both militaries.

Mattis met with Xi as part of a three-day visit to the Chinese capital, following talks with China’s Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe. Prior to his trip on Sunday the defense secretary said he hoped to establish a “transparent strategic dialogue” with the Chinese.

“Going forward, we obviously look at the actions of China, but I am going there to do a lot of listening and identification of common ground and uncommon ground on the strategic level at this time,” said Mattis, adding that he didn’t want to enter the talks with predetermined expectations of what his interlocutors will say, but rather go in “and do a lot of listening.”

Many of President Donald Trump’s recent decisions have sparked a reaction from Beijing. His move to stop large-scale U.S.-South Korea joint military drills was welcomed by China, but the Pentagon’s intention to continue challenging China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea prompted a negative reaction from Beijing.

The Pentagon last month disinvited China from participating in an annual multinational military drill, and a military official recently said that suspected Chinese laser attacks have been targeting U.S. warplanes in the Pacific, angering China.

The Trump administration authorized a few months ago U.S. manufacturers to sell submarine technology to Taiwan, a self-governed island which Beijing regards as part of its territory.

Commenting on Mattis’ visit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that despite differences, “solving the issues between the U.S. and China with mutual respect” was crucial. “We have always believed that the bilateral relationship can benefit both countries and both peoples,” he added.

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