US Presses China on Religious Rights, South China Sea, Taiwan

FILE China's President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump attend a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 9 November 2017

FILE China's President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump attend a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 9 November 2017

At the press conference, held in Washington DC, top U.S. officials urged their Chinese counterparts to halt militarization of the disputed South China Sea.

"The United States and the global communities will continue to express our concerns with respect to China's repression of religious groups - Christians, Buddhists, and 800,000 to possibly millions of Muslims - that have been denied their freedoms", Pompeo said during a joint press briefing following Friday's talks.

Pompeo took aim at China over its continued building of military installations on artificial islands and reefs in the South China Sea, where China insists it has sovereignty despite competing claims from some smaller neighbors.

Mattis made clear that this demand go unheeded by Washington, which insists it is acting under global law to preserve access for it and others to the South China Sea.

The nuance between Washington's "One China Policy" and China's "One China Principle" is that the USA stance leaves open the possibility that a future resolution could be determined peacefully by both China and Taiwan. "That will certainly help reduce security risks", Yang said.

Defense Minister Wei reiterated during the press conference that China would take any necessary measures to ensure the eventual unification of Taiwan is not threatened, a statement in response to the sailing of a United States warship through the Taiwan Strait for the second time in several months.

Meeting former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in Beijing, Xi said he and Trump would have a "deep exchange of views" in Argentina, the official Xinhua news agency reported. -China military tensions to avoid unintended clashes, with the Chinese general saying confrontation "will spell disaster to all". Since July, China and the US have imposed tariffs on half the annual imports from each other, followed by heated rhetoric and sabre rattling in the South China Sea. "The United States is not trying to contain China, but we want fairness and reciprocity".

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Mattis was also upfront that US would continue its so-called freedom of navigation program.

A senior administration official said Pence's meetings with regional leaders were still being planned, but a meeting between Pence and Chang, Taiwan's envoy to APEC, was not being ruled out. Trump has slapped tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese products, in a push to narrow the US trade deficit and push back against what the USA views as predatory Chinese tactics on the high technology industry.

A meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump at a G20 summit this month will be of great significance to both sides, the Chinese government's top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said on Thursday.

But just as he was speaking, a top advisor to Trump, Peter Navarro, vowed to press China hard on trade. Beijing has retaliated with tariffs on $110 million worth of US goods.

Beijing has defended its internment camps in western Xinjiang that human rights groups say now house around 1 million Muslim men and women.

The Pentagon had previously declined to comment on a May report quoting unnamed sources with direct knowledge of US intelligence reports as saying that the anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems had been deployed to Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef in April or early May.

Yang said that China, North Korea's main lifeline, would enforce United Nations sanctions but voiced hope that Washington and Pyongyang "will meet each other halfway" and "accommodate each other's legitimate concerns". Yang insisted that Chinese people have freedom of religion, and that "foreign countries have no right to interfere".

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