China and US step up co-operation over North Korean nuclear crisis

President Xi reiterates Chinese view that dialogue is needed to resolve standoff

US president Donald Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping prior to their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

US president Donald Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping prior to their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

 

China’s president Xi Jinping and US president Donald Trump vowed to step up security co-operation between their two countries to tackle the North Korean nuclear crisis, and Mr Xi has ordered China’s navy to take part in US-led military exercises in the Pacific Rim next year.

Mr Xi held a 1½-hour meeting with Mr Trump on the fringes of the G20 in Hamburg, and news of military and security co-operation comes as a surprise after the relationship between the world’s two biggest economies appeared strained by a series of aggressive remarks by the US leader. Just days before the G20, Mr Trump tweeted that China was not doing enough to restrain North Korea.

While ordering the navy to take part in the “Rimpac” manoeuvres and proposing military co-operation with the US, Mr Xi restated the North Korean nuclear standoff could be resolved only through dialogue.

“The international community should increase efforts in promoting dialogue and controlling the situation when responding to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s [North Korea’s] violations of UN Security Council resolutions,” Mr Xi said, quoted by the Xinhua news agency.

Anti-missile system

The Chinese president reiterated his opposition to the deployment of the US Thaad anti-missile system in South Korea, and said he continued to oppose joint naval drills by the US and South Korea, which the North Koreans see as preparation for invasion.

The two countries’ defence ministers should exchange visits as soon as possible, and there should be joint chiefs of staff meetings, said Mr Xi, before ordering “the Chinese navy’s participation in the United States-led 2018 Pacific Rim military drill.”

China first took part in the US Pacific Rim drill, known as Rimpac, in 2014, when it sent 47 ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel.

Always mercurial, the Sino-US relationship has become extremely difficult to predict of late, certainly from the American side.

“It’s an honour to have you as a friend,” Mr Trump told his Chinese counterpart at the weekend, before telling him he appreciated actions he had already taken on North Korea, a direct contradiction of his tweet of a few days earlier.

Mr Trump campaigned on a message of getting tough with China on trade issues, but when the two leaders first met in April at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golf resort, the US leader hailed their friendship, which apparently had survived news over chocolate cake that the US was planning an air strike on Syria.

In recent weeks Mr Trump has criticised China for not doing enough to rein in its ally and neighbour North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, which appears to have reached a stage that it can fire an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The Chinese have been angered by US arms sales to Taiwan, rumblings of trade embargoes over steel exports, the sanctioning of a Chinese bank for allegedly dealing with North Korea and also US naval vessels have sailed close to islets in the South China Sea which Beijing claims as Chinese territory.

“As far as North Korea is concerned, we will have, eventually, success. It may take longer than I’d like. It may take longer than you’d like. But there will be success in the end one way or the other,” Mr Trump said. – (Additional reporting: Reuters)