Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson before their meeting at at the Great Hall of the People on March 19, 2017 in Beijing, China. REUTERS/Lintao Zhang/Pool
With warm words from Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ended his first trip to Asia since taking office with an agreement to work together with China on North Korea and putting aside trickier issues.
China has been irritated at being repeatedly told by Washington to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and the U.S. decision to base an advanced missile defense system in South Korea.
Beijing is also deeply suspicious of U.S. 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.
But meeting in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, those issues were brushed aside by Xi and Tillerson, at least in front of reporters, with Xi saying Tillerson had made a lot of efforts to achieve a smooth transition in a new era of relations.
“You said that China-U.S. relations can only be friendly. I express my appreciation for this,” Xi said.
Xi said he had communicated with President Donald Trump several times through telephone conversations and messages.
“We both believe that China-U.S. cooperation henceforth is the direction we are both striving for. We are both expecting a new era for constructive development,” Xi said.
“The joint interests of China and the United States far outweigh the differences, and cooperation is the only correct choice for us both,” Xi added, in comments carried by China’s Foreign Ministry.
China and the United States must strengthen coordination of hot regional issues, respect each other’s core interests and major concerns, and protect the broad stability of ties, Xi said.
Tillerson replied that Trump looks forward to enhancing understanding with China and the opportunity for a visit in the future.
Tillerson said Trump places a “very high value on the communications that have already occurred” between Xi and Trump.
“And he looks forward to enhancing that understanding in the opportunity for a visit in the future,” Tillerson said.
“We know that through further dialogue we will achieve a greater understanding that will lead to a strengthened — strengthening of the ties between China and the United States and set the tone for our future relationship of cooperation.”
Trump has so far been an unpredictable partner for China, attacking Beijing on issues ranging from trade to the South China Sea and in December by talking to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.
Two days after accusing China of doing too little to help curb Pyongyang’s weapons drive, Trump told reporters he held meetings on North Korea over the weekend at his Florida resort and said the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, was “acting very, very badly.”
Underscoring the tensions, North Korea conducted a test of a new high-thrust engine at its Tongchang-ri rocket launch station, and Kim said the successful test was “a new birth” of its rocket industry, Pyongyang’s official media said on Sunday.
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 U.S. forces.
Still, China and the United States appeared to have made some progress or put aside differences on difficult issues, at least in advance of a planned summit between Xi and Trump.
Both Tillerson and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi struck a more conciliatory tone in their meeting, with Tillerson saying the United States and China would work together to get nuclear-armed North Korea to take “a different course”.
North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests and a series of missile launches, in defiance of U.N. sanctions, and is believed by experts and government officials to be working to develop nuclear-warhead missiles that could reach the United States.
Washington wants China, the North’s neighbor and main trading partner, to use its influence to rein in the weapons programs.
China says it is committed to enforcing U.N. sanctions on North Korea, but all sides have a responsibility to lessen tensions and get back to the negotiating table.
Chinese official also repeatedly say they do not have the influence over North Korea that Washington and others believe, and express fears poverty-struck North Korea could collapse if it were cut off completely, pushing destabilizing waves of refugees into northeastern China. — By Yeganeh Torbati and Michael Martina | BEIJING
(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Florida; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Sandra Maler)
North Korea warms to South Korea after visit, volume down on border propaganda
FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects a newly established Pyongyang trackless trolley factory in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 1, 2018. KCNA/via REUTERS
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea’s leader said he wants to boost the “warm climate of reconciliation and dialogue” with South Korea after his high-level delegation returned from a visit to the South, as his foes reiterated the need to keep up maximum pressure and sanctions.
Kim Jong Un gave instructions for measures aimed at more inter-Korean engagement after his younger sister Kim Yo Jong led a three-day visit to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, North Korea’s state media reported on Tuesday.
It did not specify what those instructions were.
The United States has appeared to endorse deeper post-Olympics engagement between the two Koreas that could lead to talks between Pyongyang and Washington. South’s President Moon Jae-in said on Tuesday the United States is open to talking with North Korea, Moon’s spokesman told a briefing.
“The United States sees inter-Korean dialogue in a positive light and has expressed its openness for talks with the North,” Moon told Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis, according to the spokesman.
U.S. officials also want tough international sanctions to be ramped up to push North Korea to give up its nuclear program.
That sentiment was repeated by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday, who said Moon had agreed it was necessary to keep up maximum pressure on North Korea.
Last year, North Korea conducted dozens of missile launches and its sixth and largest nuclear test in defiance of U.N. resolutions as it pursues its goal of developing a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching the United States.
Japanese officials took pains to stress there was no daylight between Japan, the United States and South Korea on their approach to dealing with North Korea.
The United States’ “fundamental policy” aimed at denuclearization of the Korean peninsula has not changed, said a senior Japanese diplomat in a briefing to lawmakers.
“The goal is denuclearization and the process is dialogue for dialogue, action for action, so if North Korea does not show actions, the United States and Japan will not change their policies,” he said.
A senior military official stationed at the border between North and South Korea told Reuters North Korea has lowered the volume of its border propaganda broadcasts since the Olympics’ opening ceremony on Feb. 9.
“I still hear it, but it is much less than before,” said the official who is stationed on the southern side of the border and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Moon, who was offered a meeting with Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang via his sister, has been pushing for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
Seoul is planning to push ahead with its plans for reunions of family members separated by the 1950-53 Korean War in order to sustain the dialogue prompted by the North Korean delegation’s visit.
Meanwhile, Trump urged Russia to do more in urging North Korea to scrap its nuclear program, the White House said on Monday, aimed at intensifying the pressure campaign on Pyongyang.
Talk of an inter-Korean summit, which would be the first since 2007 if it happened, come after months of tension between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington.
As with North Korean media over the weekend, the KCNA report again made no mention of the summit offer made to Moon.
Rather, Kim Jong Un gave his gratitude to Seoul for their “sincere efforts” to prioritize the delegation’s visit, which were “very impressive”, KCNA said.
Moon and his administration hosted several meetings and meals for the delegation during their stay at the presidential Blue House and luxury five-star hotels while Moon personally accompanied Kim Yo Jong for events at the Olympics as well as an orchestra concert.
In addition to the high-level delegation, hundreds of North Koreans including an orchestra and cheer squad have visited South Korea for the Winter Olympics.
The cheerleading team will be attendance at the united women’s ice hockey team’s final game in the Olympics on Wednesday, facing old rival Japan to conclude preliminary round play.
Reporting by Christine Kim; Additional reporting by Linda Sieg and Tim Kelly in TOKYO and James Pearson in PYEONGCHANG, South Korea; Editing by Lincoln Feast
North Korean orchestra serenades South Koreans amid protest
The North Korea’s Samjiyon Orchestra performs in Gangneung, South Korea, February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) – A 137-strong North Korean orchestra kicked off its first performance in South Korea on Thursday, serenading hundreds of South Koreans with familiar tunes while dozens of protesters blasted their own music outside, to the beat of drums.
The Samjiyon Band’s performance comes a day before South Korea opens its first Winter Olympics, amid a thaw in ties with North Korea highlighted by the first visit by its leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, who is set to arrive on Friday.
Performing in the coastal city of Gangneung, the art troupe played songs from both North and South Korea, as well as a medley of Western tunes, including one from Broadway musical ‘Phantom of the Opera’.
“We came because it’s a historic moment and perhaps the only opportunity for exchanges between North and South Korea,” said South Korean Choi Kyung-in, 54, standing beside her daughter.
The band is Pyongyang’s main art troupe and has previously been seen performing pieces from American animation movies such as “Beauty and the Beast,” and “The Lion King.”
The performance is the first by North Koreans in the South since 2000, when another orchestra crossed the border for a joint concert to mark Korea’s Liberation Day on Aug. 15.
Confusion and arguments over some designated seats in the audience caused a 10-minute delay in the Gangneung Arts Center.
More than 150,000 South Koreans entered a lottery for tickets to the two performances the North Korean troupe will hold in South Korea. A random selection saw 780 winners receive two tickets each, the government said in a statement.
A total of 812 people attended Thursday’s show, among them 252 special invitees picked separately by the government.
About five minutes away from the concert hall, 80 protesters staged a demonstration in sub-zero temperatures, blasting out songs opposing the Pyeongchang Olympics and beating on drums.
A barricade of about 100 police kept the protesters away from the performance site.
“They are here to make fools of South Koreans, and I cannot accept that,” said 71-year-old Kwon Oh-seok, adding that he had traveled from Seoul, the capital, to protest against the performance.
South Korea temporarily lifted a ban on North Korean ships to allow the Mangyongbong 92 ferry, carrying the troupe to enter the eastern port of Mukho on Monday.
The North’s orchestra will stage its second and last performance in Seoul on Sunday.
Reporting by Jane Chung; Editing by Christine Kim and Clarence Fernandez
U.S. warns on growing nuclear arsenals of China, Russia, North Korea
FILE PHOTO – U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood (R) waits next to U.S. Army Captain Murzban Morris of the Departement of Defense Joint Staff before their address on North Korea to the Conference on Disarmament at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
GENEVA (Reuters) – North Korea may be only months away from being able to strike the United States with a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile and its atomic weapons program must be shut down, a senior U.S. disarmament official said on Tuesday.
U.S. disarmament ambassador Robert Wood, addressing the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, also warned that arsenals in China and Russia were expanding.
“Russia, China and North Korea are growing their stockpiles, increasing the prominence of nuclear weapons in their security strategies, and – in some cases – pursuing the development of new nuclear capabilities to threaten other peaceful nations,” he said.
North Korea “may now be only months away from the capability to strike the U.S. with nuclear-armed ballistic missiles”.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alison Williams