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Tillerson in Beijing amid rising tensions over N Korea, THAAD

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi after arriving in Chinese capital of Beijing on March 18, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is visiting China amid new tensions between the two powers over a series of issues, including North Korea and Washington’s deployment of the THAAD missile system to South Korea.

The official visit by Tillerson, who arrived in Beijing on Saturday, comes as Beijing is angry at repeated US demands to use its influence on North Korea and prevent its nuclear and missile tests.

Beijing is also at odds with Washington over its deployment of the sophisticated THAAD missile system in South Korea in defiance of China’s warnings that such a move would deteriorate the situation on the restive Korean Peninsula. China also views the deployment as a threat to its national security.

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Tillerson delivered the Trump administration’s harshest warning yet to North Korea on Friday, threatening that a military response would be “on the table” if Pyongyang took action to threaten South Korean and American forces.

Meanwhile, unidentified US officials in Washington, who spoke on condition of anonymity, were cited in a Reuters report as saying that Washington’s top diplomat may also raise the prospect of imposing “secondary sanctions” on Chinese banks and other firms doing business with North Korea during his China visit.

In a Friday tweet, US President Donald Trump accused China of doing little to resolve the crisis over the North’s weapons programs.

After arrival in Beijing, Tillerson held talks with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi (2nd L) meets with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (2nd R) at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on March 18, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Speaking to reporters after the talks, the top Chinese diplomat said there had to be a commitment to using diplomatic means to peacefully settle the North Korea issue.

He added that his talks with the US official also focused on Taiwan and bilateral trade besides North Korea, describing the discussions as  “candid, pragmatic and productive.

Tillerson, in turn, said Wang had agreed they would work together to try to get North Korea’s government to change its current course of pursuing nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying once again reiterated that talks were the best means to resolve the issues of the Korean Peninsula.

“As a close neighbor of the peninsula, China has even more reason than any other country to care about the situation,” she said during her regular press briefing.

During his stay, Tillerson is also expected to confirm a visit to Washington by Chinese President Xi Jinping next month, and may decide to tone down any differences between the world’s largest economies for the time being.

While China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province, Trump caused a ruckus when he took a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen following his election victory, breaking with the diplomatic protocol that stipulated formal ties with Beijing and not Taipei.

He continued to engage in rhetoric that left the impression he might stop recognizing Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan. Although he later backtracked and upheld the so-called ‘One China’ policy, his behavior is believed to have emboldened the independence bid in Taiwan.

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