U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis will visit China this week amid growing tensions between the two nations over Beijing’s policy on the South China Sea, U.S. sale of arms to Taiwan and a looming trade war.
Mattis told reporters Sunday he wants to “take measure” of China’s strategic ambitions as it increases its military positions in disputed areas of the South China Sea. He said he is going to China with an open mind and plans to do a lot of listening.
Despite the thorny issues on the table, Mattis also hopes to secure China’s support for pressuring North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program, the key goal of the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this month.
While in Beijing, from Tuesday to Thursday, Mattis will meet with senior Chinese defense officials and perhaps meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The four-day trip will also take him to South Korea, where he will hold talks with Minster of National Defense Song Young-moo and to Japan, where he plans to meet with Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera.
The meetings are aimed at reassuring South Korea and Japan that Washington remains committed to regional security after Trump announced at the summit with Kim that the U.S. would stop joint military exercises it routinely conducts with South Korea.