Rifts on display during Pompeo’s China visit

By Ling Shengli Source:Global Times Published: 2018/10/9 19:58:39

Within just a few days, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a whirlwind tour of Northeast Asia. With the aim of pushing denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Pompeo met with senior officials of China, Japan and the two Koreas. The visit has strengthened strategic coordination with US allies such as Japan and South Korea, promoted dialogue with the North Korean leadership, and exchanged views with China on bilateral and regional affairs. 

Finding a solution to North Korea's nuclear issue was the top priority of Pompeo's visit. Washington has a clear strategic thinking in this regard, which is to woo its allies, hold onto North Korea and cooperate with China.

The US promises its allies that they could benefit from denuclearization of the peninsula, but at the same time, it requires Japan and South Korea to be on the same page with Washington on North Korean nuclear issue.

Meanwhile, the US has given its nod to North Korean efforts to promote denuclearization and consoled Pyongyang after it recently felt ruffled. The US is aiming to hold the second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and hopes that the differences between Washington and Pyongyang could be narrowed down.

During his visit, Pompeo sought for China's support on the North Korean nuclear issue and expressed hope that the two countries can continue to cooperate on the denuclearization of the peninsula. All in all, Pompeo's Northeast Asian tour went smoothly.

China was the last leg of Pompeo's tour, which was overshadowed by a slew of challenges over US relations with Beijing. Both Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, and Wang Yi, China's foreign minister, stressed the importance of bilateral ties when meeting with Pompeo and urged the US to get over its misperceptions about China and bring the two back on the right track.

The remarks by China's leaders reveal three aspects. First, leadership in China and the US should enhance communication and avoid strategic misjudgment. Currently, bilateral relations are sensitive and fragile.

There are a number of dialogue mechanisms to help constrain their behavior and strengthen mutual understanding. The key is how these mechanisms can play their role when bilateral relations face an impasse and help avoid strategic misjudgment. From recent remarks by some senior US officials, the US misjudgment of China is seemingly uncontrollable.

Second, Beijing and Washington should properly manage differences based on mutual respect. It is impossible that China and the US, two major powers, agree over everything. When meeting with Pompeo, Chinese side frankly spoke of China's stances on important issues regarding Taiwan and trade and delivered the message that only cooperation between the two sides can solve differences.

Third, China and the US need to expand concrete cooperation based on mutual benefits. No matter at bilateral, regional or global levels, there is vast room for cooperation between the two. They should try to seek more common interests and minimize conflict of interest so as to stabilize ties.

It is not that realistic to count on a short visit of a US secretary of state to ease the current predicament Sino-US ties find themselves in. The old problems, such as trade, Taiwan and the South China Sea, and their new dynamics need patience and sincerity of both sides to be solved. The interests of China and the US converge nowadays, and it would be naïve for the two to engage in a zero-sum game.

Continuous confrontation will impair mutual trust on regional and global affairs. A well-functioning Sino-US relationship is essential for both countries and the entire Northeast Asian region. Compromises are needed for the two to walk out of the current dilemma.

The author is secretary-general of the International Security Study Center at China Foreign Affairs University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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