China bans historical TV dramas ahead of important anniversary

A Chinese flag flutters in front of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, May 27, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s television regulator has banned “entertainment-driven” historical dramas, it said in a notice on Thursday, the latest clampdown on media in a sensitive year for the ruling Communist Party

The regulator said the ban also applied to so-called idol dramas, which are centered around a celebrity, and it instead called on broadcasters to air patriotic content in the run-up to the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic, on Oct. 1.

Censorship of media and entertainment content in China has become tighter under President Xi Jinping, and has intensified this year, with authorities delaying approval for at least three major films that were expected this summer.

The regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, said television channels should broadcast programs from a list of 86 that focus “on different historical aspects that show the great struggle of the Chinese nation as its people have stood up and become richer and stronger”.

The Beijing Daily, a newspaper backed by the Communist Party, in January criticized five popular historical dramas including “Empresses in the Palace” for having a “negative effect” on society. Many such dramas involve palace intrigues and scheming by the main characters.

Idol dramas, a format also popular in Japan and South Korea, have also been criticized by state media as overly materialistic and for being a negative influence on society.

(Reporting by Huizhong Wu, Pei Li and Roxanne Liu; Editing by Tony Munroe)

U.S. aims to restart China trade talks, will not accept conditions on tariff use

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States hopes to re-launch trade talks with China after President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping meet in Japan on Saturday, but Washington will not accept any conditions around the U.S. use of tariffs in the dispute, a senior administration official said on Tuesday.

Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on another $325 billion of goods, covering nearly all the remaining Chinese imports into the United States – including consumer products such as cellphones, computers and clothing – if the meeting with Xi produces no progress in resolving a host of U.S. complaints around the way China does business.

The two sides could agree not to impose new tariffs as a goodwill gesture to get negotiations going, the official said, but he said it was unclear if that would happen.

The United States was not willing to come to the Xi meeting with concessions, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Washington wants Beijing to come back the table with the promises it withdrew before talks broke down, he said.

China has shown no softening in its position and said on Monday that both sides should make compromises in the trade talks and that a trade deal has to be beneficial for both countries.

The back-and-forth set up what could prove to be a tricky meeting between Trump and Xi at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Osaka. The session will be the first time they have met since trade talks between the world’s two largest economies broke down in May, when the United States accused China of reneging on reform pledges it made.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who has led trade talks for Beijing, held a phone conversation with his counterparts, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, on Monday, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce. The three men are helping to pave the way for talks between the leaders later this week.

Expectations for that meeting so far appear to be low. The best-case scenario would be a resumption of official talks, which could ease fears in financial markets that the already long trade dispute might continue indefinitely. The fears have pummeled global markets and hurt the world economy.

Trump advisers have said no trade deal is expected at the meeting but they hope to create a path forward for talks. Once negotiations resume, they could take months or even years to complete, the senior Trump administration official said, with some parts agreed early and others needing more time.

A resumption of negotiations could put that threat of further tariffs on hold, at least for now.

But if Trump sees no progress and decides to raise tariffs, the relationship between the world’s two largest economies would deteriorate further.

“I think if they go with the tariffs, the trade talks are dead. Period,” said one person familiar with the talks.

The United States has made clear it wants China to go back to the position it held in a draft trade agreement that was nearly completed before Beijing balked at some of its terms, particularly requirements to change its laws on key issues.

Beijing wants the United States to lift tariffs, while Washington wants China to change a series of practices including on intellectual property and requirements that U.S. companies share their technology with Chinese companies in order to do business there.

As part of the trade war, Washington has already imposed 25% tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods, ranging from semi-conductors to furniture, that are imported to the United States.

PRESSURE BUILDING

The president has spoken optimistically about the chances of a deal.

The administration official said rounds of meetings between top trade officials from both countries likely would begin again after the G20 summit. He noted that although the vice premier still led China’s trade delegation, new names had been added to the list who could be hard-liners.

The official said Trump and Xi were unlikely to get into the fine details of the draft trade pact, although the case of Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Co may come up during talks.

Pressure on Huawei, which the U.S. government has labeled a security threat, has increased in recent days.

About a dozen rural U.S. telecom carriers that depend on Huawei for network gear are in discussions with its biggest rivals, Ericsson and Nokia, to replace their Chinese equipment, sources familiar with the matter said.

And the U.S.-based research arm of Huawei, Futurewei Technologies Inc, has moved to separate its operations from its corporate parent since the U.S government in May put Huawei on a trade blacklist, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Trump has indicated a willingness to include the Huawei issue in a trade deal, despite the national security implications cited by his advisers about the company. Meanwhile, U.S. parcel delivery firm FedEx Corp on Monday sued the U.S. government, saying it should not be held liable if it inadvertently shipped products that violated a Trump administration ban on exports to some Chinese companies.

The move came after FedEx reignited Chinese ire over its business practices when a package containing a Huawei phone sent to the United States was returned last week to its sender in Britain, in what FedEx said was an “operational error.”

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Alexandra Alper, Jane Lanhee Lee, Tarmo Vikri, Andrew Galbraith and Angela Moon; editing by Simon Webb and Cynthia Osterman)

Black-clad, anti-extradition protesters singing “Hallelujah to the Lord” flood streets of Hong Kong

Protesters gather outside police headquarters in Hong Kong, China June 21, 2019. REUTERS/Ann Wang

By Jessie Pang and Clare Jim

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Thousands of demonstrators blockaded police headquarters on Friday as Asia’s leading financial center braced itself for a third weekend of mass protests against an extradition bill that has plunged the Chinese-ruled city into crisis.

Groups of mostly students wearing hard hats, goggles and face masks set up roadblocks and trapped vehicles in a generally peaceful protest to demand that leader Carrie Lam, who promoted and then postponed the bill, scrap it altogether.

“Having people here is giving pressure to the government that we don’t agree with your extradition plans,” said student Edison Ng, who was protesting in sweltering heat of about 32 degrees Celsius (90F).

“It is not clear how long we will stay… To go or not to go, (the) people will decide,” he added.

The protests, which pose the greatest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took power in 2012, once again forced the temporary closure of Hong Kong government offices over security concerns.

Roads that would normally be jammed with traffic near the heart of the former British colony were empty, with demonstrators reinforcing roadblocks with metal barriers.

“Never surrender,” echoed through the streets as the protesters chanted near police headquarters and called on police chief Stephen Lo to step down.

Riot police armed with helmets and shields appeared from the balcony of police headquarters but withdrew back inside after heavy chanting from the crowd. Police warned activists through loud hailers not to charge.

Thousands remained outside government buildings on Friday night, with the majority sitting peacefully and spraying each other with water to keep cool. Nearby, a large group sang “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord”, which has emerged as the unlikely anthem of the protests.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, since when it has been governed under a “one country, two systems” formula that allows freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China, including a much-cherished independent judiciary.

Millions of people, fearing further erosion of those freedoms, have clogged the streets of the Asian financial center this month to rally against the bill, which would allow people to be extradited to the mainland to face trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.

It triggered the most violent protests in decades when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowds. Beijing’s squeeze sparked pro-democracy protests in 2014 that paralyzed parts of the city for 79 days.

Many accuse China of obstructing democratic reforms, interfering with elections and of being behind the disappearance of five Hong Kong-based booksellers, starting in 2015, who specialized in works critical of Chinese leaders.

Friday’s marchers demanded that the government drop all charges against those arrested in last week’s clashes, charge police with what they describe as violent action and stop referring to the protests as a riot.

A small group of demonstrators hurled eggs at police outside the headquarters to protest against police violence. Amnesty International in a statement on Friday that evidence of unlawful use of force by police during the June 12 protest was “irrefutable”.

The government in a statement late on Friday said the protests had caused much disruption and appealed to protesters to act peacefully and rationally. With regard to the bill, it said the government had put a stop to legislation on the matter.

“SINCERE AND HUMBLE ATTITUDE”

Opponents of the extradition bill fear the law could put them at the mercy of the mainland Chinese justice system which is plagued by torture, forced confessions and arbitrary detentions.

The turmoil has also raised questions over Lam’s ability to govern, two years after she was selected and pledged to “unite and move forward”.

Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng became the latest government minister to apologize over the bill.

“Regarding the controversies and disputes in society arising from the strife in the past few months, being a team member of the government, I offer my sincere apology to all people of Hong Kong,” Cheng wrote in her blog.

“We promise to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements in serving the public.”

While Lam admitted shortcomings over the bill and said she had heard the people “loud and clear”, she has rejected repeated calls to step down.

Concerns over the bill spread quickly, from democratic and human rights groups to the wider Hong Kong community, including pro-establishment business figures, some usually loath to contradict the government. Some Hong Kong tycoons have started moving personal wealth offshore.

Hong Kong’s Bar Association said in a statement that it was asking the government to withdraw the extradition bill and make a commitment that any legislation would not proceed without having a full and open consultation.

Protesters had gathered early on Friday outside government offices before marching toward police headquarters. One activist read a letter of support from a Taiwan student.

“Brave HKers, perhaps when faced with adversity, we are all fragile and small, but please do not give up defending everything that you love,” the protester read through a loud hailer to applause.

Beijing has never renounced the use of force to take over self-ruled Taiwan, which it regards as a recalcitrant, breakaway province. Many have waved Taiwan flags at recent demonstrations in Hong Kong, images certain to rile authorities in Beijing.

Taiwan, overwhelmingly opposed to a “one country, two systems” formula for itself, has voiced support for Hong Kong.

(Additional reporting by Jessie Pang, Vimvam Tong, Clare Jim, Anne Marie Roantree, Farah Master, Twinnie Siu, Sijia Jiang Felix Tam, Ryan Chang; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree and Farah Master; Editing by Clarence Fernandez; Nick Macfie and Toby Chopra)

Trump says U.S.-China trade deal may be reached in four weeks

U.S. President Donald Trump talks with with China's Vice Premier Liu He in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 4, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Jeff Mason and David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday the United States and China were close to a trade deal that could be announced within four weeks, while warning Beijing that it would be difficult to allow trade to continue without a pact.

The two countries are engaged in intense negotiations to end a months-long trade war that has rattled global markets, but hopes of a resolution soared after both sides expressed optimism following talks in Beijing last week.

Speaking to reporters at the White House at the start of a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, Trump said some of the tougher points of a deal had been agreed but there were still differences to be bridged.

“We’re getting very close to making a deal. That doesn’t mean a deal is made, because it’s not, but we’re certainly getting a lot closer,” Trump said in the Oval Office.

“And I would think with, oh, within the next four weeks or maybe less, maybe more, whatever it takes, something very monumental could be announced.”

Trump said he would hold a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping if there were a deal.

Xi assured Trump that text of the China-U.S. trade could be finalized soon, in a message conveyed by Liu He.

According to state-run news agency Xinhua, Liu He told Trump that Xi believed under his and Trump’s leadership, China-U.S. relations will make new and greater progress.

Xi said that in the past month or more, the two sides’ trade teams had maintained close contact and “achieved new and substantive progress on issues in the text of two countries’ trade agreement”.

“I hope the two sides’ trade teams can continue working in the spirit of mutual respect, equality, and mutual benefit to resolve each other’s concerns, and finish negotiations on the text of the China-U.S. trade agreement soon,” Xi said to Trump through Liu.

KEEPING LEVERAGE

Trump declined to say what would happen to U.S. tariffs on $250 billion worth of goods as part of a deal. China wants the tariffs lifted, while U.S. officials are wary of giving up that leverage, at least for now.

Asked about the benefits of an agreement for China, Trump said: “It’s going to be great for China, in that China will continue to trade with the United States. I mean, otherwise, it would be very tough for us to allow that to happen.”

Goods trade between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies, totaled $660 billion last year, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, consisting of imports of $540 billion from China and $120 billion in exports to China.

On China’s behalf, Liu cited “great progress” in the talks because of Trump’s direct involvement and expressed hope that the talks would lead to “a good result.”

U.S. SEEKS SWEEPING CHANGES

Trump has previously threatened to impose punitive tariffs on all imports from China, more than a half-trillion dollars worth of products.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who is leading the talks for the Trump administration, said there were still some “major, major issues” to resolve and praised Liu’s commitment to reform in China.

Asked about the remaining sticking points, Trump mentioned tariffs and intellectual property theft. He said he would discuss tariffs with Liu in their meeting.

“Some of the toughest things have been agreed to,” Trump said. He later said that an enforcement plan for a deal remained a sticking point as well.

“We have to make sure there’s enforcement. I think we’ll get that done. We’ve discussed it at length,” he said.

Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are holding talks in Washington with a Chinese delegation this week after meeting together in Beijing last week. The current round of talks is scheduled to go through Friday and possibly longer.

Hopes that the talks were moving in a positive direction have cheered financial markets in recent weeks. But U.S. stocks were mixed on Thursday as investors waited for more developments in the trade negotiations, with the Dow Jones industrial Average slightly higher, and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite slightly lower. [.N]

The United States is seeking reforms to Chinese practices that it says result in the theft of U.S. intellectual property and the forced transfer of technology from U.S. companies to Chinese firms.

Administration officials initially envisioned a summit between Trump and Xi potentially taking place in March, but some U.S. lawmakers and lobbying groups have said recently they were told that the administration was now aiming for a deal in late April.

OUTSTANDING ISSUES

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said last week that the talks were “not time-dependent” and could be extended for weeks or even months longer.

While some reform pledges by Beijing are largely set, including an agreement to avoid currency manipulation, an enforcement mechanism to ensure that China keeps its pledges and the status of U.S. tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods must be resolved.

“China has been very clear, publicly and privately, that they would like to see all the tariffs removed,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce international affairs chief Myron Brilliant told reporters on Tuesday.

“The (Trump) administration has been equally clear that they want to keep some of the tariffs in place as a way to have leverage over China fulfilling its obligations under whatever final package is reached.”

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and David Lawder; Additional reporting by Chris Prentice and Michael Martina in BEIJING; Editing by Peter Cooney, Simon Cameron-Moore and Michael Perry)

U.S.-China trade talks continue, Trump not expected to announce summit: official

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping arrive for a state dinner at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House is not expected to announce a date on Thursday for a trade summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, a senior administration official said, as negotiators for the two sides launch another day of talks.

China and the United States are in the middle of intense negotiations to end a months-long trade war that has rattled global markets.

After meetings in Beijing last week, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are holding talks with a Chinese delegation in Washington this week.

Trump is slated to meet with China’s top trade negotiator, Liu He, at 4:30 p.m. (2030 GMT) at the White House. The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times reported that he was expected to announce a date for a summit at that time, but a senior administration official told Reuters that was incorrect.

“The White House is not expected to announce a date for a meeting,” the official said.

Trump administration officials have cited progress in the talks on tricky aspects, including reforming practices that Washington objects to by Beijing such as the intellectual property theft and forced transfer of technology from U.S. companies doing business in China.

Hopes that the talks were moving in a positive direction have cheered investors.

Administration officials initially envisioned a summit between Trump and Xi potentially taking place in March, but that period passed while talks continued.

How to enforce a deal as well as when and whether to lift tariffs on billions of dollars of goods have been sticking points in what appear to be the final stages of the talks.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Susan Thomas)

Trump, Xi unlikely to meet before March 1 trade deadline: U.S. officials

U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping chat as they walk along the front patio of the Mar-a-Lago estate after a bilateral meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are unlikely to meet before their countries’ March 1 deadline to reach a trade deal, two U.S. administration officials and a source familiar with the negotiations said on Thursday.

The countries had taken a 90-day hiatus in their trade war to hammer out a deal, and another round of talks is scheduled for next week in China.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters on Thursday that the leaders of the two economic superpowers could still meet later.

“At some point, the two presidents will meet, that is what Mr. Trump has been saying. But that is off in the distance still at the moment,” he said.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Alexandra Alper; Writing by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Alistair Bell)

Trump upbeat on China trade talks but wants broad access for U.S. firms

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (2nd right) sits across from China's Vice Premier Liu He (left) during the opening of US-China Trade Talks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

By Doina Chiacu and David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump expressed optimism about forging a comprehensive trade deal with China as high-level talks continued on Thursday, but said any arrangement that fails to open Chinese markets broadly to U.S. industry and agriculture would be unacceptable.

As delegations from the world’s two top economies held the second of two scheduled days of talks in the U.S. capital aimed at easing a six-month-old trade war, Trump also said no final accord will be made until he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the near future.

The talks were aimed at resolving deep differences over China’s intellectual property practices. Trump has threatened to raise tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25 percent from 10 percent on March 2 if an agreement is not reached and impose new tariffs on the rest of Chinese goods shipped to the United States.

Trump was scheduled to meet with the leader of the Chinese delegation, Vice Premier Liu He, at the White House at 3:30 p.m. as talks conclude.

“Meetings are going well with good intent and spirit on both sides,” Trump said on Twitter. “No final deal will be made until my friend President Xi, and I, meet in the near future to discuss and agree on some of the long-standing and more difficult points.”

Trump, who has engaged in a series of fights with a variety of trade partners since becoming president in 2017, has acted as the final decision-maker in U.S. trade negotiations. Trump has vetoed multiple proposed trade deals with China, choosing to push ahead with tariffs on Chinese goods to gain leverage.

The Republican president set a high bar for any agreement in the current round of talks, writing on Twitter, “China’s representatives and I are trying to do a complete deal leaving NOTHING unresolved on the table.”

Trump said he was looking for China to open its markets “not only to Financial Services, which they are now doing, but also to our Manufacturing, Farmers and other U.S. businesses and industries. Without this a deal would be unacceptable!”

Chinese negotiators proposed a meeting between Trump and Xi next month in the Chinese city of Hainan, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Two White House officials said the Chinese had not made an invitation in the current talks for Trump to meet Xi in China soon, but added that they would not be surprised if such an offer was extended during Liu’s meeting on Thursday.

“The White House thus far has been focused on substance, not next steps,” one official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

THUMBS UP

People’s Bank of China Governor Yi Gang declined comment on Chinese proposals as he left the delegation’s hotel for the meetings in Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House. Asked how the talks were going, Yi flashed a thumbs-up sign.

The Journal quoted anonymous sources as saying Chinese proposals mostly involved more purchases of U.S. farm and energy products and promises to invite more American capital into China’s manufacturing and financial services sectors.

U.S. officials have demanded that Beijing make deep structural changes to its industrial policies, including broad new protections for American intellectual property and an end to practices that Washington has said force U.S. companies to transfer technology to Chinese firms in exchange for market access.

The U.S. complaints, along with accusations of Chinese cyber theft of American trade secrets and a systematic campaign to acquire U.S. technology firms, were used by Trump’s administration to justify punitive tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports.

China has retaliated with tariffs of its own, but has suspended some and is allowing some purchases of U.S. soybeans during the talks.

Chinese officials have said their policies do not coerce technology transfers. They have emphasized steps already taken, including reduced automotive tariffs and a draft foreign investment law expected to be approved in March that improves access for foreign firms and promises to outlaw “administrative means to force the transfer of technology.”

A crucial component of any progress in the talks, according to U.S. officials, is agreement on a mechanism to verify and enforce China’s follow-through on any reform pledges. This could maintain the threat of U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods for the long term.

The U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods are just one front in Trump’s efforts to upend the global trading order with his “America First” strategy. He has also imposed global tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, washing machines and solar panels and has threatened to raise tariffs on imported cars unless Japan and the European Union offer trade concessions.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu, Susan Heavey, Chris Prentice, Jeff Mason, Steve Holland, Alexandra Alper and David Lawder; Writing by David Lawder; Editing by Will Dunham)

China allows first-ever U.S. rice imports in ‘goodwill gesture’ ahead of trade talks

FILE PHOTO: Shipping containers are seen at a port in Shanghai, China July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

BEIJING (Reuters) – China has opened the door to imports of rice from the United States for the first time ever in what analysts took to signal a warming of relations between the world’s two biggest economies after a frosty year marked by tensions and tit-for-tat tariffs.

The green light from Chinese customs, indicated in a statement posted on the customs authority’s website on Friday, comes in the run-up to talks between the countries in January after U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a moratorium on higher tariffs that would affect trade worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

It wasn’t immediately clear how much rice China, which sources rice imports from within Asia, might seek to buy from the United States. But the move, which comes after years of talks on the matter, follows pledges from China’s commerce ministry of further U.S. trade openings earlier this week.

As of Dec. 27, imports of brown rice, polished rice and crushed rice from the United States are now permitted, as long as cargoes meet China’s inspection standards and are registered with the United States Department of Agriculture.

“The permission for U.S. rice suggests an improving U.S. and China relationship,” said Cherry Zhang, an agriculture analyst with consultancy JCI. Zhang said she expected any imports would likely be ordered by state-owned companies.

Officials at a government-affiliated think-tank in Beijing said the price of U.S. rice is not competitive, compared with imports from South Asia, and said the move to formally permit import should be interpreted as a goodwill gesture.

China opened its rice market when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, but a lack of phytosanitary protocol between China and the United States effectively banned imports, according to trade group USA Rice.

Nonetheless, in July, China formally imposed additional tariffs of 25 percent on U.S. rice, even though imports were not permitted at the time.

(Reporting by Meng Meng and Ryan Woo; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

Xi tells Mattis China won’t give up ‘one inch’ of territory

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, second from left, speaks during a meeting with China's Defense Minister Wei Fenghe at the Bayi Building in Beijing, China, June 27, 2018. Mark Schiefelbein/Pool via REUTERS

By Phil Stewart and Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) – China is committed to peace and won’t cause “chaos” in the world, but cannot give up even an inch of territory that the country’s ancestors have left behind, Chinese President Xi Jinping told U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday.

Mattis, a former Marine general, has been highly critical of China’s muscular military moves in the disputed South China Sea. The U.S. military even withdrew an invitation to China to join a multinational naval exercise that will start during Mattis’ visit, upsetting Beijing.

Mattis is visiting against a backdrop of spiraling tension between Beijing and Washington over trade.

Beijing is also deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions toward self-governing and democratic Taiwan, which is armed by the United States. China views the island as a sacred part of its territory.

Meeting in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Xi told Mattis that China had only peaceful intentions and would not “cause chaos,” state television reported.

Both countries’ common interests far outweigh their differences, but on territorial issues there can be no concessions, Xi added, without referring to specific areas.

“We cannot lose even one inch of the territory left behind by our ancestors. What is other people’s, we do not want at all,” state television cited Xi as saying.

Mattis, in comments in front of reporters, told Xi his talks had been “very, very” good.

“I am happy to be in China and we are assigning the same high degree of importance to the military relationship,” Mattis said.

Meeting earlier in the day, China’s defense minister told Mattis that only with mutual respect and by avoiding confrontation can China and the United States develop together.

“China upholds peaceful development, and China’s military unswervingly protects the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests,” Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe said, according to his ministry.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, left, and China's Defense Minister Wei Fenghe stand as the American national anthem is played during a welcome ceremony at the Bayi Building in Beijing, Wednesday, June 27, 2018. Mark Schiefelbein/Pool via Reuters

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, left, and China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe stand as the American national anthem is played during a welcome ceremony at the Bayi Building in Beijing, Wednesday, June 27, 2018. Mark Schiefelbein/Pool via Reuters

“China and the United States can only develop together if we maintain no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” Wei added.

“China and the United States’ two militaries must implement the consensus of the two countries’ leaders, increase mutual trust, strengthen cooperation and manage risks to turn ties between the two militaries into a factor for stability in the bilateral relationship.”

Mattis, the first Pentagon chief to visit China since 2014, told Wei he expected all of his conversations in Beijing would be characterized by an “open and honest” dialogue, like the one he had with Wei.

“The military-to-military relationship is critical to the broader relationship between our two countries,” Mattis added, in comments also in front of reporters.

Mattis invited Wei to visit him at the Pentagon.

Wei was similarly upbeat in his public remarks.

“Your visit to China this time is … a new positive factor to the military-to-military and state-to-state relationship,” said Wei, who only assumed his position in March.

TAIWAN TENSION

The Chinese defense ministry statement made only passing mention of the South China Sea, Taiwan and North Korea, citing Wei as telling Mattis what China’s positions were on those issues.

As Mattis arrived, Chinese state media said a formation of Chinese warships had been holding daily combat drills for more than a week in waters near Taiwan, and there have been frequent Chinese air force exercises near the island.

While China and the United States have tried hard to keep lines of communication between their militaries open, especially at the senior level, they are deeply suspicious of each other.

The United States accuses China of militarizing the South China Sea with its island-building work there, while China has been angered by U.S. naval patrols through the strategic waterway.

In May, the United States withdrew an invitation to China to attend a major U.S.-hosted naval drill, the Rim of the Pacific exercise, known as RIMPAC and previously attended by China, in response to what Washington sees as Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea.

Still, the two have broad strategic common interests, such as ensuring peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.

China welcomed a historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this month in Singapore, where Kim reaffirmed a commitment to work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, while Trump said he would halt joint U.S.-South Korean “war games.”

(The story is refiled to removes extraneous words paragraphs five and nine, fixes typo paragraph seven.)

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Christian Shepherd and Michael Martina; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)

North Korea’s Kim told Xi he wanted to resume six-party disarmament talks: Nikkei

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, as he paid an unofficial visit to China, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang March 28, 2018. KCNA/via Reuters

TOKYO (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told Chinese President Xi Jinping during talks in Beijing last week that he agreed to return to six-party talks on his nation’s nuclear program and missile tests, the Nikkei newspaper said on Thursday.

Months of chill between Beijing and Pyongyang appeared to suddenly vanish during Kim’s secretive visit, with China saying that Kim had pledged his commitment to denuclearization.

Quoting multiple sources connected to China and North Korea, the Nikkei said that, according to documents issued after Kim and Xi met, Kim told Xi that he agreed to resuming the six-party talks, which were last held in 2009.

North Korea declared the on-again, off-again talks dead at the time, blaming U.S. aggression. The talks grouped the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, Japan and host China.

The sources said it was also possible that Kim could convey his willingness to resume the talks to U.S. President Donald Trump at a summit set to take place in May, but that it was far from clear if that meant the talks would actually resume.

Chinese officials were not immediately able to comment.

China has traditionally been secretive North Korea’s closest ally, though ties have been frayed by Kim’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and missiles and Beijing’s backing of tough U.N. sanctions in response.

North Korea has said in previous talks that it could consider giving up its nuclear arsenal if the United States removed its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.

Some analysts have said Trump’s willingness to meet Kim handed North Korea a diplomatic win, as the United States had insisted for years that any such summit be preceded by North Korean steps to denuclearize.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Nick Macfie)