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Beijing hopes switch of top US diplomat doesn't affect ties

By WANG QINGYUN/ZHAO HUANXIN | China Daily | Updated: 2018-03-15 07:06
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Beijing said on Wednesday it hopes the reshuffling of chief US diplomats will not affect the development of relations and important areas of cooperation.

United States President Donald Trump fired Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, saying his replacement would be CIA Director Mike Pompeo. The nominee is awaiting confirmation by the Senate.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a daily news conference that Tillerson remained in close contact with China as secretary of state, and China appreciates his efforts to promote the development of the Sino-US ties.

He said China also hopes to work with the new US secretary of state to continue the healthy and stable development of bilateral ties, adding that China hopes to continue cooperating with the US on important international and regional issues.

Such cooperation is viable because it is in line not only with the interests of the two countries but also the expectations of the international community, Lu said.

"We hope the recent positive momentum in the Korean Peninsula situation-including the political willingness expressed by the US and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea for direct talks-will remain," Lu said.

Speaking to reporters hours after being fired, Tillerson called for an orderly transition to Pompeo, and encouraged State Department employees to remain focused on their jobs.

He also listed areas where efforts need to continue.

"Much work remains to establish a clear view of the nature of our future relationship with China," he said. "How shall we deal with one another over the next 50 years and ensure a period of prosperity for all of our peoples, free of conflict between two very powerful nations?"

Tillerson said he had delegated his official duties to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and that his own tenure would end on March 31.

Jessica Chen Weiss, an associate professor of government at Cornell University and expert on Chinese foreign policy, said so far there's little indication that Trump consistently listens to his advisers, while there's every indication that Trump's advisers follow his lead.

"Pompeo fits this profile as well and has little diplomatic experience, so leaders in Asia and around the world will still have to guess from Trump's tweets and spur-of-the-moment decisions what new tack the US plans to take," she said in a statement on Tuesday.

Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said that the change of personnel shows that Trump wants to form a strong team to implement his policies, which is not an easy job.

He said Sino-US ties will not be greatly affected. "Trump determines US policy toward China, and high-level exchanges, communications and coordination on major issues between the two countries have not been interrupted and will be further enhanced," Ruan said.

The only way to manage differences is through communication and consultation, which conforms to the interests of both nations, he added.

Zhou Jin contributed to this story.

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