Pompeo meets China’s top diplomat in Hawaii, State Department says

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, speaks as Chinese Communist Party Office of Foreign Affairs Director Yang Jiechi listens as the two countries hold a joint news conference after participating in a second diplomatic and security meeting at the U.S. Department of State, Washington, U.S., November 9, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, on Wednesday in Honolulu, the State Department said, a crucial meeting as relations between the two countries have deeply soured since the start of the year.


The meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. local time (1900 GMT), according to the agency’s public schedule.

In addition to an intensifying strategic rivalry, the world’s top two economies have been at loggerheads over the handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic and China’s move to impose new security legislation on Hong Kong.

The meeting also comes at a time of rising tensions over China’s neighbor North Korea. The United States and China share concerns about that country’s nuclear weapons program.

Neither side has outlined an agenda for the talks, but diplomats and other sources have said the meeting was requested by China.

Experts say relations have reached their lowest point in years, and in mid-May U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been pursuing a deal to end a damaging trade war he launched with China, went so far as to suggest he could cut ties with Beijing.

Pompeo has been forceful in his criticism of Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus, which originated in China. He has said China could have prevented hundreds of thousands of deaths by being more transparent, and accused it of refusing to share information.

The meeting is expected to take place at Hawaii’s Hickam Air Force base and will be Pompeo’s first known contact with Yang since they spoke by telephone on April 15 to discuss the coronavirus.

Trump has initiated a process of eliminating special U.S. treatment for Hong Kong to punish China for curbing freedoms there, but has stopped short of immediately ending privileges that have helped the territory remain a global financial center.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Paul Simao

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