US secretary of state John Kerry met President Xi Jinping on Friday amid rising tension in the region over China’s territorial claim in the East and South China Seas and diplomatic unease in the Korean Peninsula over North Korea's nulcear programme.
The top US diplomat's trip to Beijing comes at a crucial moment for the region, with disputes between Beijing and Tokyo over their World War II history and disputed islands in the East China Sea sending relations between the Asian powers plummeting to their lowest point in recent years.
During the the Valentine’s Day visit -- coinciding with the auspicious Lantern Festival that marked the end of the Spring Festival in China – Kerry also met foreign minister, Wang Yi.
“China is firmly committed to building a new model of China-U.S. relationship together with the U.S. side, and will continue to enhance dialogue, boost mutual trust and cooperation and properly handle differences in the new year so as to forge ahead with the lasting and healthy development of the ties,” state run Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as having told Kerry.
But China made it clear to the US that it should not take sides in the maritime disputes in the region.
Foreign minister Wang told Kerry that Beijing is committed to peacefully resolving territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.
But Wang added that he hoped the United States would respect China's “sovereign rights”, “treat the issue objectively and fairly” and not take sides, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Foreign ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying said the US should stick to its promises and not take sides in this dispute.
“The United States is not a party in the South China Sea dispute, and should ... be careful in its words and actions, and do more that will benefit true peace and stability in the region rather than the opposite,” she said.
Agency reports quoted Kerry as saying in Seoul before leaving for Beijing, that China should be doing more to help nudge North Korea -- which has rattled the region with nuclear tests and angry rhetoric - into line.
Reacting to the remark, Hua said China was working hard to get North Korea to return to talks on its nuclear program. She pointed out Chinese diplomats visited Pyongyang recently.
“China as a responsible, big country has been actively promoting and resolving the nuclear issue and has played its due role,” Hua told a daily news briefing.
“We have, through different channels, worked on the North Korea nuclear problem through the six-party nuclear talks, and have maintained close communication with the parties,” Hua added,
North Korea was raised during Kerry's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to the official Xinhua news agency, with Xi “setting forth China's stance”.
The report provided no other details.