President Xi meets US Secretary of State

After meeting two hours with Tillerson, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the United States should return to negotiations: "No matter what happens, we have to stay committed to diplomatic means as a way to seek a peaceful settlement".

But Mr Tillerson appeared to be soothing ties with Beijing, telling Mr Xi that "we know that through further dialogue we will achieve a greater understanding that will lead to a. strengthening of the ties between China and the United States and set the tone for our future relationship of cooperation".

Xi, greeting the new secretary of state in an ornate room in the Great Hall of the People, thanked Tillerson for a smooth transition to the Trump administration and expressed his appreciation for the sentiment that "the China-U.S. relationship can only be defined by cooperation and friendship".

Any military option against North Korea, whether big or small, carries a significant risk of leading to full-scale war that could claim millions of lives, The New York Times reported Sunday.

China strongly objects to the installation in South Korea of a missile defense system there, and the polite public words from Tillerson were created to give China "face", said a diplomat in Beijing who spoke on the condition of anonymity per usual diplomatic custom.

Tillerson drew criticism back home for not taking the diplomatic press corps along on his Asia trip.

Working together to get North Korea to change course is something Trump and Xi will need to work out face to face.

Given that Trump had shown a preference for bilateral agreements over multilateral ones, "they could rekindle something like the bilateral investment treaty [initiated under the administration of former USA president Barack Obama]", Lampton said.

Tillerson made clear that the Trump Administration would not even consider talks until North Korea denuclearized and gave up its "weapons of mass destruction".

"At present, there is little indication that China is willing to alter its approach in these areas".

Now, one may think everyone now takes it easy till Xi meets the Donald, but not generals and admirals in Beijing, Moscow, Pyongyang, Seoul, Tokyo or Washington.

The military option has loomed larger since US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared in Seoul last Friday that Washington would not negotiate with Pyongyang. Officials on both sides said North Korea dominated the discussions as two countries believe the situation reached risky levels.

Washington wants Beijing to help curb the North's nuclear weapons programme.

Beijing, however, has been irked by calls that it isn't doing enough to lessen tensions in the region.

Previously, Tillerson had said in Tokyo that 20 years of diplomatic and other efforts, including a period when the United States provided North Korea with $1.35bn in assistance "to take a different pathway", had come to nothing.

An un-bylined opinion piece Friday in the Global Times, a Chinese state-run tabloid, made a similar point.

On the North Korea situation, Tillerson told McPike: "Our objective is a denuclearized Korean peninsula".

The Washington Post has quoted former members of the Clinton administration as saying the USA considered a strike on a North Korean nuclear facility in 1994 when it appeared on the brink of producing weapons-grade fissile material and refused United Nations inspections.

Tillerson said Trump places a "very high value on the communications that have already occurred" between Xi and Trump.

Tillerson's comments were in marked difference to Trump's.

  • Leroy Wright