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April 26, 2017

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Taiwan not on radar as US, China face NK

The United States' top envoy brushed aside months of tension between Beijing and Washington at the end of his visits with high-level Chinese authorities, pledging tighter bilateral cooperation.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday completed a three-country Asia trip aimed at mapping a game plan against the looming North Korean threat.

Taiwan barely figures into this plan, with no mention of it made in any of the U.S. State Department's press statements during Tillerson's Beijing stop.

U.S. President Donald Trump had fanned the hopes of some in Taiwan while angering Beijing's leaders in December by accepting a congratulatory call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.

He also stoked ire in Beijing with tweets over Taiwan, North Korea and China's escalating actions in the South China Sea.

But his secretary of state struck a cordial tone in Beijing, the last stop of his Asia trip, assuring the government there that Trump was seeking to improve ties and to "do everything we can" to prevent conflict from breaking out on the Korean Peninsula.

Trump places a "very high value on the communications" that he has already had with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, he said.

Tillerson's public statements and those of officials he met including Xi and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi were dominated by the issue of North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons program.

Vow for Closer US-China Ties

Xi and Tillerson pledged in their talks Sunday that their two countries would work to strengthen a relationship that has been unsettled by disputes over North Korea and trade.

Xi met Tillerson in Beijing just hours after nuclear-armed North Korea tested U.S.-China unity anew with a provocative rocket engine test, and with negotiations under way for a potential Xi summit next month with Trump in the United States.

Xi said told Tillerson that he and Trump had resolved in a phone call last month "to make joint efforts to advance China-U.S. cooperation, and we believe that we can make sure the relationship will move ahead in a constructive fashion in the new era."

"I'm confident that as long as we can do this the relationship can surely move in the right direction," Xi said.

En route to Beijing, Tillerson visited U.S. allies Japan and South Korea where he declared Washington would drop the "failed" approach of strategic patience diplomacy with Pyongyang — a sharp break with China, which favors careful diplomacy over heated rhetoric.

Relations have also been strained by China's fierce opposition to a U.S. anti-missile defense system being deployed in South Korea, and Trump's Twitter accusation on Friday that China was not doing enough to control its neighbor and historic ally Pyongyang.

Trump also has repeatedly accused China of unfair trade practice.

But Tillerson has made nice while in Beijing.

"We know that through further dialogue we will achieve a greater understanding that will lead to a … strengthening of the ties between China and the United States and set the tone for our future relationship of cooperation," Tillerson told Xi.

Earlier Sunday, North Korean state media said the isolated regime had tested a powerful engine hailed by leader Kim Jong-Un as a "new birth" for its rocket industry, which experts view as cover for developing intercontinental ballistic missiles.

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