Vietnam Time

6/26/2018 8:01:03 PM

Mattis becomes first US defence chief to visit China under Trump

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday became the first Pentagon chief to visit China since 2014, starting a three-day trip with a goal of improving security dialogue with Beijing.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis receives a bouquet upon arrival at an airport in Beijing, China June 26th, 2018. (REUTERS/Phil Stewart)

Mattis, who was greeted with a floral bouquet as he exited his plane in Beijing, was cautious to avoid stoking tensions when speaking to reporters ahead of his trip. Mattis said he sought "open dialogue" at a strategic level when he met with military officials in Beijing.

"I want to go in, right now, without basically poisoning the well at this point, as if my mind's already made up," said Mattis, who was due to meet U.S. embassy officials on Tuesday.

"I'm going there to have a conversation."

Such an approach would appear to be welcome in China, where widely-read state-run tabloid The Global Times said: "Both sides should learn to be good listeners."

"Mattis' visit suggests that the Trump administration is still willing to hold military dialogue with China," it said in an editorial.

"Such bilateral talks will alleviate tensions between the two countries and is better than blindly guessing the other's 'strategic ambitions.'"

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters that military-to-military relations had always been an important part of China's ties with the United States, despite other problems the two countries currently have.

"I believe that as long as both countries have this desire to meet each other halfway, there are no difficulties that cannot be overcome," Lu said.

Beijing hosted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last week, and getting Beijing's view of North Korea is expected to be high on Mattis' agenda.

North Korean media said Chinese President Xi Jinping and Kim reached an understanding on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula after discussing the outcome of the U.S.-North Korea summit.

"The People's Republic of China also want to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula. That's their policy," Mattis said, raising the issue as one where there was some convergence in U.S. and Chinese interests./.

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