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Tillerson Urges China to Act -- WSJ

18 Feb 2017 7:32 am

Secretary of state exhorts Beijing to 'use all available tools' against North Korea
By Felicia Schwartz 

BONN, Germany -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told China's foreign minister that his country should "use all available tools" to confront North Korea's provocations, a State Department spokesman said, as Beijing and Washington held their highest-level meeting since President Donald Trump took office.

Mr. Tillerson and Wang Yi met for about an hour Friday morning in Bonn, on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers of the Group of 20 leading industrialized and emerging nations.

Their meeting came nearly a week after North Korea conducted a missile test into the Sea of Japan, the first such test since Mr. Trump was sworn in. Mr. Tillerson and his Japanese and South Korean counterparts on Thursday condemned the test and vowed a tougher international response.

Tensions between Beijing and Washington eased last week after Mr. Trump called Chinese President Xi Jinping and affirmed the U.S. commitment to the "One China" policy that grants diplomatic recognition to China but not Taiwan. Mr. Trump had previously said the U.S. might not honor the policy unless China made concessions on trade.

China's Foreign Ministry said Messrs. Wang and Tillerson discussed the North Korea nuclear issue in their meeting, but didn't provide details. According to a statement published on the ministry's website, Mr. Wang told Mr. Tillerson the U.S. commitment to its "One China" policy and the "important consensus" jointly expressed by Messrs. Xi and Trump in their phonecall laid the "political foundation" for bilateral cooperation.

In addition to discussing the North Korean threat, Mr. Tillerson appeared to raise some of Mr. Trump's campaign criticisms on Friday, said the State Department spokesman, Mark Toner.

"Secretary Tillerson and Minister Wang noted the recent call between leaders and discussed efforts to advance bilateral cooperation while addressing differences in a constructive manner," Mr. Toner said. "The two also discussed the need to create a level playing field for trade and investment."

The meeting came as Mr. Tillerson wrapped up a quick visit to Bonn on his first overseas trip as secretary of state.

Mr. Tillerson's appearance at the G-20 meeting, billed officially as a discussion of sustainable development goals and meant to be a preparatory session for summit of the group's leaders in Hamburg in July, drew most of the attention here, as foreign ministers were eager to speak face-to-face with the new U.S. chief diplomat and seek clarification on the Trump administration's positions.

Mr. Tillerson on Friday morning attended a meeting of ministers from 10 countries that oppose President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria. German and French officials said afterward that he backed efforts by the United Nations to find a political solution to the nearly six-year war there.

"Everyone committed to it, especially also the new members in this round such as our American colleague. He was very engaged in the debate," said German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

Diplomats present at the meeting seemed cautiously optimistic about their ability to work with Mr. Tillerson and the Trump administration. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Mr. Tillerson reaffirmed that the U.S. wouldn't support the lifting of sanctions on Russia until the implementation of a cease-fire agreement in eastern Ukraine. The accord was reached by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany, and signed by pro-Russia separatists in 2015 in the Belarusian capital Minsk.

There appeared to be differences, however, over the Iranian nuclear deal and the Mideast peace process.

Mr. Ayrault told reporters after his meeting with Mr. Tillerson on Thursday that he was concerned about the Trump administration's move away from a commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also said that Mr. Tillerson gave him the impression that Washington wanted to scrap the Iranian nuclear deal and start from scratch.

Mr. Tillerson denied that he gave that impression, in comments to reporters Thursday evening. On Friday, at the start of a meeting with Italy's foreign minister, the new secretary of state said little, if anything, about how his conversations with foreign diplomats at the G-20 gathering went.

"Met a lot of people, made a lot of new friends," he said. "It was a full schedule."

He told reporters Friday at the start of a meeting with the Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano -- his last bilateral meeting after more than a dozen engagements in the course of two days -- that he had a lot of feedback to bring back to Mr. Trump but wouldn't share it until he did so with the president.

Ruth Bender

contributed to this article.

Write to Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 18, 2017 02:32 ET (07:32 GMT)

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