On Wednesday, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi in Hawaii to address the growing tensions between the two world superpowers. US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, also attended after a last-minute decision on Tuesday.
Both Yang and Pompeo appeared to show a willingness to maintain dialogue between the two nations to prevent their already strained relationship from worsening.
Initial statements from Beijing said that the meeting was “constructive” and that Yang told Pompeo that cooperation between their nations is the “only correct choice.”
Pompeo appeared to agree, stressing the need for “fully reciprocal dealings between the two nations across commercial, security and diplomatic interactions,” according to US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.
No reporters were allowed to travel with Pompeo and Biegun and coverage of their high-level meeting was extremely limited.
The seven hourlong meeting in Honolulu was said to have covered the most divisive issues between the two nations, such as controversies surrounding Hong Kong and China’s Uighur population as well as their commitments to the US-China trade deal.
“Yang pointed out that he hoped China and the US would be accommodative to each other … and push their bilateral relations to the track of coordination, cooperation and stability,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.
He also said that despite China’s commitment to building a mutually respectful relationship, they would also resolutely defend its territory, security and development interests if needed.
A separate report released by Chinese state-run media outlet Xinhua News Agency, said that “both sides agreed to take action and seriously implement the consensus reached by their leaders, and to continue communication.”
Subsequent to the meeting on Thursday, using the acronym for the Chinese Communist Party, Pompeo tweeted, “During my meeting with CCP Politburo Member Yang Jiechi, he recommitted to completing and honoring all of the obligations of Phase 1 of the trade deal between our two countries.”
However, not all US officials echoed Pompeo’s confidence and optimism.
Assistant US Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell, said that China “could not be described as really forthcoming in all this.”
He remained skeptical of the statement released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry about the meeting, calling it “very one sided,” “shrill and not realistic.”
Diplomatic observers have also said that while the Hawaii talks showed evidence that both nations did not want to derail their bilateral ties, expectations should remain low.
“It is unlikely to see either side make significant compromises on any one or two of the above issues to enable substantial easing in tensions for a long enough period of time,” said Shi Yinhong, a government adviser and international relations professor with Renmin University in Beijing.
“Maintaining [diplomatic] contact by itself cannot ensure any meaningful improvement in bilateral relations,” Shi added.
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