Washington: A meeting between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping was being planned, the White House has said, while emphasising that its purpose would be to defuse tensions over the Korean Peninsula.
"Planning is ongoing for a visit between President Trump and President Xi at a date to be determined. We're not ready to confirm that, and we will have more details," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at his daily news conference amid reports that Trump and Xi would be meeting at Mar-a-Lago in Florida on April 6 and 7.
"It's the purpose of this meeting, of that kind of a meeting, to help defuse tensions over North Korea and the recent deployment of a THAAD military battery to South Korea," he said.
Spicer stated that any meeting between the US President and China would necessarily cover a broad range of topics of mutual concern.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this week is headed to a three-nation Asia tour that would take him to Japan, Korea and China, he said.
"As we go forward, we will have additional details on both the timing and the location of that when we go forward. The State Department Acting Spokesman Mark Toner said North Korea would be a major topic of discussion with China. The Secretary understands that China feels differently certainly with respect to THAAD," Spicer said.
"I think part of the discussions he's going to have when he's in Beijing are hopefully going to be geared towards easing some of those concerns, but also in making very clear that we're taking these actions in an effort to deal with an increasing threat and that we have to do more, we have to look at new ideas, new ways of dealing with North Korea," he said.
Tillerson will be travelling to Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing this week on his first trip to Asia as Secretary of State.
He will arrive in Tokyo on March 15, and continue on to Seoul on March 17, and then head to Beijing on March 18, a senior State Department official said.
The trip will allow the Secretary to continue to engage allies and partners on not only a range of bilateral issues, but also importantly to discuss and coordinate strategy to address the advancing nuclear and missile threat from North Korea.
"The United States is committed to holding North Korea accountable for its flagrant and repeated disregard for multiple UN Security Council resolution violations which expressly prohibit its ballistic missile and nuclear programmes," the official said.
"And we will defend our friends and allies, the Republic of Korea and Japan, and we will seek to work collaboratively to the maximum extent possible with important partners such as China," the official said.
In Tokyo, Tillerson will meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Japanese counterpart.
"This trip builds on Prime Minister Abe's visit with President Trump in Washington and in Mar-a-Lago in Florida on February 10 through 12," the official said, adding that strong US-Japan relations serve as the cornerstone of peace and security in the Asia Pacific region.
"So in Tokyo, of course, the Secretary will discuss our shared regional and global objectives, including strengthening security cooperation within the US-Japan alliance, working together to enhance a rules-based approach to the maritime domain, and particularly exploring efforts to deepen US-Japan and ROK trilateral cooperation in the face of North Korea's dangerous pursuit of weapons programmes," the official said.
In Seoul, Tillerson will meet with acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn and the Foreign Minister.
In Beijing, his third and final stop, Tillerson would hold a wide range of talks with Chinese officials.
"We're pursuing a constructive and results-oriented relationship with China, one that benefits the American people, remains faithful to our allies, and presses China to abide by international rules and norms," the official said.
"We expect that each of these stops on Secretary Tillerson's first visit to Asia will be forward-looking and will involve discussions of ways to strengthen our cooperation in order to advance the security and economic well-being of the American people. The visit will be the first of many in what we envision will be close, ongoing working relationships," the senior administration official said.