BEIJING — North Korean threats, trade tensions and global terrorism are expected to be among the issues discussed at the inaugural U.S.-China diplomatic and security dialogue being held in Washington this week.
Trade and investment are also due to take a high profile following President Donald Trump’s repeated complaints about the U.S. trade deficit with China, which hit $310 billion last year, by far the largest imbalance with any country.
The deficit with China represented about 60 percent of last year’s total deficit of $500.6 billion.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Tuesday that Beijing is hoping for “positive outcomes” from the dialogue, which replaces a former, more wide-ranging series of talks known as the Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
North Korea will likely be a central issue as Trump’s administration continues to push China to use its leverage as Pyongyang’s main source of economic and diplomatic support to persuade it to halt its missile launches and nuclear weapons tests.
Geng said China remains committed to banishing nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula and working with the U.S. and others on restarting talks over the issue.
Terrorism and competing territorial claims in the South China Sea are also expected to be raised at Wednesday’s discussions.
Geng said tensions in the South China Sea have cooled amid efforts by China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to cement a code of conduct that would ostensibly help them avoid conflicts. China claims virtually the entire strategic waterbody, while the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also hold stakes in the region.
Geng said bilateral and international issues would be taken up during the dialogue, which will be led on the U.S. side by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. China will be represented by senior foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi and military chief of staff Fang Fenghui.
Referring to terrorism, Geng identified no specific areas, but said both Beijing and Washington faced a common threat. Rights groups accuse Beijing of using terrorism as a pretext for repressing its Muslim Uighur minority in the western region of Xinjiang, while China says Washington’s interventions in Iraq, Libya and elsewhere have led to chaos, death and destruction.
“We hope the two sides can, in the principle of mutual respect, mutual benefit and equality, exchange views and extend cooperation on the anti-terrorism issues of common interest,” Geng said.
While a U.S.-Chinese trade war looks unlikely, the world’s two biggest economies need to work together at a time of “many uncertainties” over U.S. interest rates, Britain’s pending departure from the European Union and pressure for trade controls, said former Chinese trade official Wei Jianguo.
The “100-Day Plan” announced by Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in April should help to reduce trade and other strains, according to Wei, who is vice chairman of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, an official think tank. The plan has already produced agreements for China to buy U.S. beef and natural gas.
“This year, we won’t have a trade war,” Wei said at an event this week organized by the Cabinet’s press office. “Next year, we need to be prepared.”