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Rex Tillerson and Wang Yi, Remarks after meeting, March 18, 2017

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.
March 18, 2017

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Nihao. Good afternoon. I’m pleased to be here this afternoon in Beijing to discuss the way forward in forging a constructive and results-oriented relationship between the United States and China. This is an important opportunity to follow up on the telephone conversation between President Trump and President Xi and to pave the way for continued productive high-level engagement. Since the historic opening of relations between our two countries more than 40 years ago, the U.S.-China relationship has been guided by an understanding of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation. It is important that the leaders of our two countries engage in further dialogue to develop a common understanding that will guide our relationship for the next half-century. The United States and China are the world’s two largest economies, and we must both promote stability and growth. Our two countries should have a positive trading relationship that is fair and pays dividends both ways, and we will be working on that going forth.

Foreign Minister Wang and I also spoke about the importance of safeguarding stability and security in Northeast Asia and the Asia Pacific region. We noted that efforts made over the last 20 years have so far not succeeded in curbing the threat posed by North Korea’s illegal weapons programs. Because China’s stated policy is denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, we renewed our determination to work together to convince the North Korean Government to choose a better path and a different future for its people. I discussed the importance of upholding a rules-based order in dealing with maritime disputes and freedom of navigation and overflight. And I made clear that the United States will continue to advocate for universal values such as human rights and religious freedom.

I look forward on this visit to additional meetings today with State Counselor Yang and tomorrow with President Xi, and to continue to work together with my Chinese host to address shared challenges and opportunities.

MODERATOR: Question goes to Bob Woodruff, ABC News.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for talking today. (Inaudible) in terms of all these terms – in terms of all these issues, North Korea is certainly at the top, and you’ve spoken this week, couple days ago, there is this possibility of a preemptive strike and that it’s “on the table,” quote/unquote. Exactly where’s the red line on this? What would cause this to happen, do you think? You probably don’t have to detail it, but what does North Korea have to do in order to have that possibility? And also, did you talk to China about that today, and has that given some pressure, to use some influence on them to give you anything new in terms of sanctions, et cetera, or any changes in laws to enforce some rules about trading with North Korea?

Secondly, it also was tweeted by the President, President Trump, yesterday, where he said very clearly that North Korea’s bad and China has done very, very little. Did you know about that tweet when that went out? Did you have a chance to talk to him, and what was his reaction to you? Has he made your job a lot harder?

SECRETARY TILLERSON: As I indicated in my prepared statement, Foreign Minister Wang and I had a very extensive exchange on North Korea, and Foreign Minister Wang affirmed again China’s longstanding policy of a denuclearized Korean peninsula. We also exchanged views and I think we share a common view and a sense that tensions on the peninsula are quite high (inaudible) and that things have reached a rather dangerous level. And we’ve committed ourselves to do everything we can to prevent any type of conflict from breaking out, and we view there are a number of steps that we can take that are in front of us. And Foreign Minister Wang has agreed that we will work together to see if we cannot bring the government in Pyongyang to a place where they want to make a different course – make a course correction and move away from their development of their nuclear weapons. But it is with a certain sense of urgency that we both feel because of the current situation that we have on the peninsula. So I appreciated Foreign Minister Wang’s sincere expressions about how China sees the situation, and we had a very good exchange on that and we will continue to be talking with one another on what we can both do, along with working with others, to bring North Korea to a different place where we are hopeful we can then begin a dialogue.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter, in progress) -- goes to the Chinese journalist from CCTV to Foreign Minister Wang.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter, in progress) -- CCTV, and my question goes to Foreign Minister Wang. Recently, the situation on Korean peninsula is highly complex, and it is in a constant state of tension. And we have also noticed that some people are of the view that despite China has the biggest influence on Pyongyang, it has not done enough to address the issue of the peninsula. So how does China look at the cooperation between China and the United States on international and regional issues, especially the question of the Korean peninsula?

FOREIGN MINISTER WANG: (Via interpreter) Indeed, the Korean peninsula nuclear issue is of interest to everyone. And on this issue, I would like to say that China stays committed to the goal of denuclearization and upholds the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime. We are for the settlement of this issue through dialogue and negotiations and the maintenance of peace and stability on the peninsula and the overall region.

The Korean peninsula nuclear issue in nature is an issue between the United States and the D.P.R.K. China, as a close neighbor of the peninsula and a responsible major country, has over the years devoted a lot of energy and efforts to seek a settlement to this issue. Upon the request of the U.S. side, China has worked to facilitate and secure the establishment of the Three-Party Talks, which was expanded to become the Six-Party Talks later on. In fact, all these efforts were geared to create the conditions and provide support to the engagement and the discussions between the D.P.R.K. and the United States. The tremendous, important efforts China has thus made is visible to all. And after the Six-Party Talks ground to a halt, China again worked together with the United States and the other members of the UN Security Council to pass a series of D.P.R.K.-related resolutions and played an important role in containing D.P.R.K.’s nuclear and missile programs and controlling tension on the peninsula.

Hereby, I would like to bring to your special notice here is the fact that while all Security Council resolutions related to D.P.R.K. have mapped out a series of increasingly tougher sanctions against Pyongyang, they have also at the same time included clear provisions calling for efforts to resume the talks, to de-escalate the tension, and to safeguard stability of the peninsula. Therefore, it is obliged upon all parties to implement the sanctions and restart the talks at the same time.

The entire course of trying to seek a solution to the Korean peninsula nuclear issue up to date has both had successes and failures and both successful experience and hard lessons. The most important progress made is the September the 19th joint statement we reached in 2005, when we drafted a comprehensive roadmap for the D.P.R.K. to give up its nuclear and missile programs and realize denuclearization on the peninsula. And the most important experience we have learned is that only when the legitimate concerns of all parties are addressed in a synchronized and reciprocal fashion could we secure genuine progress in the talks. And the most important principle we have identified is that no matter what happens, we have to stay committed to diplomatic means as a way to seek peaceful settlement.

The situation we face today is precisely caused by the very fact that the Six-Party Talks has ground to a halt and there was no means for diplomatic and political dialogues. Right now, the situation on the peninsula has arrived at a new crossroads. We could either let the situation continue to escalate and aggravate, which will finally lead to confronting conflicts, or we could continue to strictly implement the Security Council resolutions, and while we do so, try to seek a breakthrough point to restart the dialogues and come back to the right track of a negotiated settlement.

And we hope all parties, including our friends from the United States, could size up the situation in a cool-headed and comprehensive fashion and arrive at a wise decision. The Chinese side has in this respect come up with our proposals. We hope the parties will study the Chinese suggestions carefully. And meanwhile, we welcome all parties to come up with their own proposals, and we stand ready to continue to maintain close communication and the necessary coordination with the U.S. side on this issue.

I spent a lot of time with Secretary Tillerson just now during our meeting on the Korean peninsula nuclear issue. Of course, one or two exchange of views like this will not arrive us at complete agreement, but the good thing is we have reached a fundamental consensus governing some of the overall general directions. As Mr. Tillerson has just said now – has said just now, both of us are firmly committed to the goal of a denuclearized Korean peninsula, and we are both ready to comprehensively and strictly implement the Security Council resolutions. And we both hope to find ways to restart the talks, and neither of us are ready to give up the hope for peace. And such discussions between China and the United States will keep going, and this is and will be an important aspect of China-U.S. cooperation. Thank you.