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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi aired their grievances in the open on Monday during a brief visit to Beijing by Washington's top diplomat, amid worsening relations.
While the exchange included typical diplomatic pleasantries, and the two officials emphasised the need for cooperation, their remarks before journalists at the start of their meeting at Beijing's Diaoyutai State Guest House were unusually pointed.
"Recently, as the U.S. side has been constantly escalating trade friction toward China, it has also adopted a series of actions on the Taiwan issue that harm China's rights and interests, and has made groundless criticism of China's domestic and foreign policies," Wang said at a joint appearance with Pompeo.
"We believe this has been a direct attack on our mutual trust, and has cast a shadow on China-U.S. relations," he added. "We demand that the U.S. side stop this kind of mistaken action."
Wang also urged the United States to stop selling arms to Taiwan and to cut off official visits and military ties with the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own, according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement.
"We have great concerns about the actions that China has taken, and I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss each of those today because this is an incredibly important relationship."
Pompeo and Wang openly disagreed over which side had called off a two-way security dialogue that had been planned in Beijing this month.
Last week, Vice President Mike Pence stepped up the U.S. pressure campaign against Beijing, going beyond the trade war by accusing China of both "malign" efforts to undermine President Donald Trump ahead of next month's congressional elections and of reckless military action in the South China Sea.
Pompeo also met China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi, a Politburo member who heads the ruling Communist Party's foreign affairs commission, though remarks before reporters took a more conventional tone, even as both agreed relations faced many challenges.
Pompeo did not have a scheduled meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, a fact that a senior U.S. State Department official on the trip said was not strange, even though top U.S. officials often meet Chinese heads of state on visits.
Pompeo wished Xi a happy birthday when the two met on a trip to Beijing in June.
But the senior U.S. official said the United States still expected cooperation with Beijing on efforts to denuclearise North Korea, whose chief ally is China.
"I would certainly expect so," the official said. "That's a very important issue, and they recognise that, and accept that, and realize that."
If ties between the two countries continued to deteriorate, there could be "profound changes" in the strategic environment for such regional issues as North Korea, China's state-backed Global Times tabloid warned in an editorial.
"For Asia, the severity of China-U.S. frictions is taking up much attention and is, to some extent, diluting attention paid to the Korean peninsula issue," it said.