A senior State Department official said that the Chinese side was not “really forthcoming” during the bilateral talks between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Yang Jiechi, the Chinese Communist Party’s top foreign affairs official, in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell said at a press briefing on June 18 that China had, however, committed to following through on phase one of the U.S.-China trade deal during the talks, adding that trade would be a good acid test as to whether Beijing was a cooperative partner.
Whether or not the talks were productive, “look at what comes up in the next couple of weeks: Do we see a reduction in aggressive behavior or not?” Stilwell said.
The relationships between U.S. and Chinese diplomats have developed, Stilwell said, but it is up to the Chinese side to decide how to act.
Stilwell would not be specific about the issues discussed in Hawaii, telling reporters at the briefing that he wanted to leave the Chinese “diplomatic space” to change course on several matters.
“Trust is a function of words and deeds,” Stilwell said. Interaction with the Chinese shows that often they do not follow through on their commitments, he said, which is not conducive to building trust.
He cited the Chinese regime’s 2015 promise not to militarize the islands of South China Sea, which they later reneged on.
Stilwell also said that the relationship between the United States and China “needs to be more reciprocal.” Journalists cannot report freely in China but the regime complains about actions toward Chinese journalists in the United States.
In February, the United States started treating five major Chinese state-run media entities with U.S. operations as “foreign missions” and operatives of Beijing’s government, requiring them to register their employees and U.S. properties with the State Department.
“We leave them the diplomatic space to make decisions that demonstrate that they understand the need for this relationship to be more reciprocal and ‘win-win,’ to use their term, on both sides,” Stilwell said.
Although opportunities for cooperation with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are shrinking, the situation in North Korea may be one where both the United States and China can work together to bring North Korea to the negotiating table on its nuclear program, Stilwell said.
Yang serves as a member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CCP and the director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs. The Politburo controls the country’s government including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The United States also expects the CCP to engage in trilateral nuclear arms control talks with Russia, “to prevent unfortunate outcomes,” Stilwell said.
Previously, China has declined to participate in nuclear disarmament talks with the United States and Russia that will be held on June 22 in Vienna.
The United States has insisted that China disclose and share with the international community all information it has about the outbreak of the CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, which could have prevented much of the virus spread, Stilwell said, adding that the CCP is bound to do so by its agreements with the World Health Organization and by international law.
“This is not about saving face; it’s about saving lives,” Stilwell said.
He also said that the United States made the Chinese side aware of what the expectations are in regards to access to information related to the CCP virus outbreak and spreading.
When answering a journalist’s question about Chinese activities in Hong Kong proximity, military activity around Taiwan, and the border clash on the Chinese-Indian border, Stilwell said that creating multiple fronts in a situation when the world is distracted and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic could possibly be seen as an opportunity for the Chinese “to take advantage of distraction.”
The State Department does not have much open dialogue with its Chinese counterpart but wishes to have more of it, Stilwell said.
The CCP needs to understand that “there’s got to be give and take in any relationship. It can’t be all take, so to make a truly constructive and reciprocal relationship, the president and this administration’s insisting that China live up to its commitments,” Stilwell concluded.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.