US Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, got a military welcome in Beijing on Wednesday as tensions between the US and China simmer. Mattis is the first Pentagon chief to visit in four years. He kicked off talks with his Chinese counterpart on a positive note. Saying that he expected, quote, open and honest conversations.
Mattis hasn't always held back from criticizing Beijing, especially its military moves in the South China Sea. But as Reuters Ben Blanchard reports, the focus of Wednesday's meetings was cooperation.>> Well both countries certainly have been very keen over the last few years to improve the military-to-military relationship, to boost strategic trust.
One of the main reasons here is this can help lessen any kind of miscommunication or misadventure that might happen were Chinese ships or aircraft to encounter their US counterparts, say, over the South China Sea or in other areas.>> The US accuses China of turning areas of the South China Sea into military outposts.
Washington recently canceled Beijing's invitation to a major US Naval drill in Hawaii over the issue. Meanwhile there are other issues, which are even more sensitive for Beijing, like Taiwan. State media reported that Chinese warships have been holding military drills near the South ruled island in the run-up to Mattis's visit.
>> The Chinese are extremely nervous that the Americans are looking to increase their support for Taiwan whether militarilly or diplomatically. And for the Chinese this is really a red line that cannot be crossed. China is extremely upset by US arms sales to Taiwan. China is also extremely upset by any hint that the United States is offering any kind of stepped up diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.
>> Still the two countries have some compelling common goals, like trying to keep North Korea in check.