Mattis says U.S. will keep current troop levels in South Korea

Xi's comments to Mattis was significant as the US Defence Secretary is a strong advocate of proactive US policy in the South China Sea to contain China's efforts to consolidate its hold by installing military bases on the reclaimed islands.

Xi said China will remain on a path of peaceful development and not pursue expansionism and colonialism, Chinese state media outlet Xinhua reported, adding that common ground between the two countries "far outweighs differences".

Chinese and US flags are set up for a meeting during a visit by US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao at China's Ministry of Transport in Beijing, China April 27, 2018.

Mr Mattis said his talks with Mr Xi and other officials in Beijing on Wednesday had been "very, very" good, adding that the United States was assigning a "high degree of importance to the military relationship" with China.

Defense Secretary James Mattis on Thursday continued his campaign to make a military-to-military relationship with China the foundation of future positive cooperation between Washington and Beijing, despite pushback on some issues by Chinese counterparts.

Before departing on his trip to Asia on Sunday, Mattis said he hoped to establish a "transparent strategic dialogue" with his Chinese counterparts.

During the meeting, both sides also agreed to step up cooperation for South Korea's stable and early takeover of wartime operational control (OPCON) of its troops in wartime from the U.S.

President Donald Trump earlier said he wanted to bring U.S. soldiers home.

China is committed to peace and will never pursue expansionism but will not give up an "inch" of territory, President Xi Jinping told visiting USA defence secretary James Mattis at a meeting in Beijing on Wednesday.

His visit comes at the time that there is now a bitter dispute over China's placement of advanced weapons systems on built-up islets in the South China Sea, a move that has challenged decades of the US Navy's preeminent presence in the region.

However, ahead of his visit, he toned down his rhetoric, saying he did not want to "poison" the atmosphere ahead of talks with Xi, Wei and others.

Mattis said discussions would focus on the "way ahead" with the goal of North Korean denuclearisation and other issues of cooperation between US and South Korean militaries.

US officials have stressed their hope to expand emerging U.S. Earlier this year, the U.S. passed a law allowing the exchange of high-level officials with Taiwan.

That warning, in China's mind, also applies to Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory. The labeling of China as a competitor in the NSS is indicative of a general shift in how USA policymakers view the relationship. Despite condemnations from China, the U.S. continues to sell advanced weapons to the island under the Taiwan Relations Act.

From China's point of view, this is a worrying shift away from the foundation that has carried the relationship for over 45 years, since U.S. President Richard Nixon visited China in 1972.

USA defense officials told reporters traveling with Mattis that the talks were generally positive and candid.

  • Rogelio Becker