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High-level talks aim to build trust

By ZHANG ZHIHAO | China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-08 07:36
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) shakes hands with Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, in Beijing on October 8, 2018. [Photo/VCG]

Diplomatic and security meeting between US, China set for Friday

High-level diplomatic and security talks between China and the United States this week will send a positive signal to the world, showing that both sides are willing to enhance mutual trust and properly handle risks and differences, experts said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis will host Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, in Washington on Friday, the US State Department said in a statement on Monday. Yang is also the director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee.

State Councilor and Minister of National Defense General Wei Fenghe will also join the Chinese delegation for the Friday talks, referred to as the second round of the China-US Diplomatic and Security Dialogue.

The dialogue is a framework for negotiation created by US President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in 2017 to expand areas of cooperation while narrowing differences on key diplomatic and security issues, the US statement said.

The first round of dialogue was held in June last year in Washington, where issues were discussed ranging from the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula to maintaining peace and security in the South China Sea.

The Friday dialogue will be the third time in five months that Mattis and Wei have met. They met in June when Mattis first visited China, and they met a second time in October on the sidelines of the 5th ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus in Singapore.

Tao Wenzhao, a US studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said it is unprecedented for defense ministers to meet so frequently. This signals that the countries share a strong interest in maintaining high-level military exchanges, as well as enhancing strategic understanding and trust, Tao said.

"The Friday dialogue will play a positive role in dispersing the negative sentiments that are plaguing Sino-US relations," Tao said. However, he added, it might not immediately yield substantial solutions to major diplomatic and security issues between the two nations.

"But the dialogue is still important for building stable, healthy, military-to-military relations between the two nations," he said. "Military relations are a matter of life and death. Any mishaps between the two militaries will be catastrophic to bilateral ties."

The Chinese delegation will likely reiterate its stance on security regarding the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan and the South China Sea, Tao said.

"The Chinese military will respond to provocations from the US, but both militaries will continue to seek cooperation wherever possible," he said.

Areas of cooperation include enhancing high-level exchanges and communication mechanisms, promoting mutual visits by military personnel and naval ships and increasing coordination in peacekeeping missions, counterterrorism and humanitarian aid, he said.

Li Haidong, a US studies researcher at China Foreign Affairs University, said Sino-US relations are at a crossroads given the rise in uncertainties within US politics due to the recent midterm election.

"The dialogue is very timely and necessary for both sides to mitigate misunderstandings and properly handle differences," he said. "It will also serve as preparation for the possible upcoming meeting between Xi and Trump during the G20 summit later this month, allowing the two state leaders to discuss issues more openly and effectively."

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