China fault lines on display as top officials meet

FILE China's President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump attend a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 9 November 2017

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis spoke to the press alongside their Chinese counterparts after the four officials held a security and diplomatic dialogue meant to prepare their leaders for a meeting at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina later this month.

"The Chinese side made it clear to the United States that it should stop sending its vessels and military aircraft close to Chinese islands and reefs and stop actions that undermine China's sovereignty and security interests", he said.

Trump's administration has also accused China of interfering in USA politics, charges China strongly denies, and the two have sparred over the disputed South China Sea and self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims.

The U.S. pushed back Friday, insisting it will continue to "fly, sail and operate wherever global law allows".

Pompeo said in a joint press conference following the two-day dialogue that, despite differences on a wide range of issues, there remain areas for cooperation, including on North Korea. He added that the United States was looking to achieve progress on North Korea, discuss strategic security and reduce fentanyl imports to the US.

Defense Minister Wei reiterated during the press conference that China would take any necessary measures to ensure the eventual unification of Taiwan is not threatened, a statement in response to the sailing of a U.S. warship through the Taiwan Strait for the second time in several months.

But Wei and Mattis agreed on the need to lower U.S.

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"China is committed to working with the U.S. to achieve a non-confrontational, conflict-free, mutually respectful cooperation in which both sides win", it quoted Yang as saying.

Top on that list is the South China Sea, where warships from the two countries recently had a near-collision, and Taiwan, where the U.S. has been signaling a policy shift with more frequent arms sales and the sailing of ships near the island. "Rather, we want to make sure China acts responsibly and fairly".

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis asserted USA rights to freedom of navigation but also said the two sides should work together on areas of common interest.

Still Pompeo also was clear in addressing USA concerns, including Beijing's increasingly assertive posture in the South China Sea. Trump has slapped tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese products, in a push to narrow the US trade deficit and push back against what the USA views as predatory Chinese tactics on the high technology industry. "A trade war, instead of leading to any solution, will only end up hurting both sides and the global economy", he added. "Their top priority is to stabilize relations", she said. "And let's not forget how our two sides have successfully navigated through previous rough patches in our economic and trade relations", he said.

The Pentagon had previously declined to comment on a May report quoting unnamed sources with direct knowledge of US intelligence reports as saying that the anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems had been deployed to Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef in April or early May.

Beijing has defended its internment camps in western Xinjiang that human rights groups say now house around 1 million Muslim men and women. Trump has also threatened to add a tariff on the remainder of China's exports to the United States, worth more than $500bn, if the dispute is not resolved soon.

Yang defended China's policies in Xinjiang as measures against "ethnic separatist activities and violent terrorist crimes" but said it was a Chinese internal affair and foreign governments should not interfere.

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