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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to visit Beijing amid tension

October 4, 2018
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo briefs reporters. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

BEIJING (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to visit Beijing next week amid tensions over trade and China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

China’s foreign ministry announced Pompeo will visit on Monday for consultations on bilateral and international issues. The ministry gave no details, but based on previous visits by American secretaries of state, he would be likely to meet with China’s foreign minister, senior foreign policy advisers and President Xi Jinping.

The visit comes as the U.S. administration is accusing China of trying to undermine President Donald Trump, who accused China during a meeting of the U.N. Security Council of interfering in American elections to help his Democratic rivals.

“They do not want me, or us, to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade,” Trump said, later referencing as evidence an advertising insert in The Des Moines Register paid for by Chinese government-affiliated entities.

Since Trump took office last year, his administration has escalated pressure on China, most recently with several rounds of tit-for-tat economic trade tariffs on hundreds of billions in goods. Trump’s first national security strategy released last year also labeled China a “revisionist power” alongside Russia.

Additionally, ties have worsened in recent weeks with a U.S. decision to issue economic sanctions over the purchase of Russian fighter jets and surface-to-air missile equipment. In response, China summoned the American ambassador and defense attache to deliver a protest, and recalled its navy commander from a U.S. trip.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has since dropped plans to visit China in October for talks.

Meanwhile, a Chinese destroyer came aggressively close to a U.S. Navy ship in the South China Sea, forcing it to maneuver to prevent a collision, the U.S. Pacific Fleet said Tuesday.

The Chinese warship approached the USS Decatur in an “unsafe and unprofessional maneuver” on Sunday near Gaven Reefs in the South China Sea, said U.S. Pacific Fleet Spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman. At one point, the ships were within 40 meters (131 feet) of each other.

China claims most of the strategic waterway and has built islands on reefs and equipped them with military facilities such as airstrips, radar domes and missile systems.

The Chinese defense ministry said Tuesday it opposes the U.S. warship’s entry into the waters “around China’s islands and reefs.”

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