US Secretary of State to visit China on March 18

By ZHAO HUANXIN in WASHINGTON | | Updated: 2017-03-08 06:02

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit Beijing on March 18 to discuss China-US relations and multilateral issues, the State Department announced on Tuesday.

In his maiden trip to Asia since taking the job as US President Donald Trump's top diplomat about a month ago, Tillerson will travel to Japan, the Republic of Korea and then China on March 15-19, Mark Toner, acting State Department spokesman, said at a press conference.

"In each country, Secretary Tillerson will meet with senior officials to discuss bilateral and multilateral issues, including strategic coordination to address the advancing nuclear and missile threat from the DPRK, and reaffirm the administration's commitment to further broaden and enhance US economic and security interests in the Asia-Pacific region," Toner said.

Tillerson will arrive in Tokyo on March 15, continue to Seoul on March 17, and travel to Beijing on March 18, according to Toner. An earlier report by Japan's Kyodo news agency said the secretary was expected in Japan on March 17-18 and would meet Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

At the news briefing, Toner also talked about Washington's deployment of the anti-missile defense system THAAD – the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense – in South Korea, saying that the US had told China the anti-missile defense system was not meant to be a threat.

China on Tuesday reiterated its opposition to the deployment after a part of the THAAD battery arrived a day before, which began the process of deployment in the country's southeast region.

"We will take steps to maintain our security interests," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang, urging parties concerned to stop deployment and refrain from going too far along the wrong track.

A ROK defense ministry official told Xinhua that two mobile launchers and a part of other equipment arrived at Osan Air Base, about 70 kilometers south of the capital Seoul, on Monday night.

Li Haidong, a professor of US studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said the planned deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in the ROK is a thorn in the side of regional stability.

Tillerson may probably try to explain to China about the "necessity" of deploying THAAD, said Li. "But Beijing will not back out of its opposition to THAAD because it can lead to regional strategic imbalance and poses a grave danger to the country's security."

Tillerson's China visit was announced exactly a week after a two-day visit to Washington by China's top diplomat, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, on Feb 27-28.

In their meeting at the State Department, Yang, the first senior Chinese official to visit Washington since Trump's inauguration, invited Tillerson to visit Beijing, and Tillerson expressed interest in doing so in the near future.

On Monday, China's Foreign Ministry said the country welcomed the prospect of Tillerson's visit, noting that both countries were in communication over related matters.

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