Tillerson ends China trip with warm words from President Xi

North Korea announced this weekend that it had tested a new rocket engine that could drive a nuclear weapon.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pledged in talks on Sunday to work to strengthen a relationship strained by disputes over North Korea and trade.

Speaking in Seoul on Friday, Tillerson issued the Trump administration's starkest warning yet to North Korea, saying in Seoul that a military response would be "on the table" if Pyongyang took action to threaten South Korean and US forces.

He floated a proposal that North Korea could suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for a halt in joint US-South Korean military drills.

"There are important development opportunities resulting from China-US ties", said Xi at the meeting in the Great Hall of People in Beijing.

Tillerson said Friday that Washington did "not believe that conditions are right to engage in any talks at this time".

Tillerson dodged a reporter's question about where the US might draw a "red line", the crossing of which might trigger a military strike. The only journalist allowed on his plane was a reporter for the Independent Journal Review, which is reportedly owned, in part, by an advisor to Vice President Mike Pence.

Tillerson's counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, meanwhile insisted at the briefing that the USA had reached a "fundamental consensus" on dealing with the North Korean issue.

Tillerson said the USA was "ready to develop relations with China based on the principle of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation". They have been "playing" the United States for years.

Despite earlier warning that all options - including military action - remained on the table in dealing with Pyongyang, Tillerson refrained from the harsh language that he had used in Tokyo and Seoul upon arriving in Beijing.

Mr Xi told him that China considered his meetings on Saturday with foreign minister Wang Yi and senior diplomat Yang Jiechi to have been productive and constructive.

"But that way, China and North Korea will become enemies, further complicating the conflict".

Beijing is also deeply suspicious of USA intentions toward self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own, with the Trump administration crafting a big new arms package for the island that is bound to anger China.

For the meantime, China has vented most of its fury on South Korea, where the USA has deployed anti-missile defenses known as Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD.

  • Leroy Wright