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Analysts Cast Doubt on Pentagon Chief's Success in Beijing

© REUTERS / Yuri GripasU.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis gestures during a press briefing on the campaign to defeat ISIS at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., May 19, 2017
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis gestures during a press briefing on the campaign to defeat ISIS at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., May 19, 2017 - Sputnik International
US-Chinese relations are at their lowest point due to Washington's inconsistent foreign policy, which is seriously undermining Beijing's trust, analysts told Sputnik, referring to the Washington-driven tariff war, China's exclusion from US-led naval drills and the Trump administration's controversial Taiwan strategy.

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is poised to embark on an official visit to China next week, however, the prospects of the upcoming summit are overshadowed by security and trade frictions between Beijing and Washington.

"The US government is not only 'saying one thing and doing the opposite'," Ba Danjun, director of the institute of North-East Asia of Jilin University, told Sputnik China. "Many US high-ranking officials in the [Trump] administration profess the ideas of hegemonism and militarism, believing that they have the right to use force. They are guided by the principle that the US must ensure its own security, while other countries may remain unsafe. In this context, it is difficult for China and the United States to reach common ground, be it the Korean nuclear issue or the South China Sea problem."

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Ba believes that the US and China have common interests on the Korean Peninsula, especially when it comes to the denuclearization of the region. However, there are certain disagreements between Washington and Beijing regarding the process and the terms of North Korea's denuclearization. The Chinese scholar noted that the US hopes that Pyongyang will destroy its nuclear potential in the shortest time possible and will allow inspectors to carry out all necessary checks to ensure the irreversibility of the process.

According to Ba, the US is known for promoting its own interests during negotiations and sometimes reneging on its deals. He stressed that this creates considerable uncertainty regarding the peninsula's denuclearization and the future of US-Chinese relations.

The Chinese scholar presumed that the Korean problem is likely to come into the focus of Mattis' visit to Beijing. However, Ba is rather pessimistic about its outcome: "If one sticks to the Cold War mindset in regard to the international situation, it will not help the peninsula, Northeast Asia, or the entire world community move in the right direction."

Challenging Conditions

Deputy Director of the Institute of Asian and African Studies Andrey Karneev shares Ba's concerns.

"Mattis' visit is taking place under challenging conditions," he said. "Contacts between the [countries'] defense departments are close to the freezing point."

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Karneev referred to the Pentagon's decision to exclude China from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises — annual naval drills involving Japan, India and other Asian nations — in May 2018.

Citing what it called the "militarization of the South China Sea," the US Department of Defense announced that "China's behavior is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RIMPAC exercise."

In addition, Mattis took a hard line on Beijing while delivering his speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue gathering in Singapore in early June: "China's policy in the South China Sea stands in stark contrast to the openness our strategy promotes. It calls into question China's broader goals," said the US secretary of defense.

Moreover, the US is currently boosting ties with Taiwan, which complicates the situation even further, Karneev underscored.

The US has opened a new facility of the American Institute of Taiwan (AIT) in Taipei, regarded by some observers as a kind of "embassy" in the country. In accordance with the One China policy, Beijing sees Taiwan as its breakaway province, warning other countries against maintaining official diplomatic relations with Taipei.

"If we take into account the difficult situation in the economic contacts between the US and China, and the inevitability, in the opinion of many, of a trade war, one could hardly hope [that the two countries reach] substantial compromises in the security sphere," the Russian academic emphasized.

Recently, the US and China exchanged a series of tough trade measures subjecting each other's goods to high taxation. The US kicked off its "tariff war" by imposing additional tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Then the Trump administration introduced 25-percent tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods, citing Beijing's unfair trade practices. The measure came into force on June 15, prompting retaliatory actions on the part of China.

US Defense Secretary Mattis is due to visit Beijing next week. It was reported that following his China visit he will head to Seoul.

The views and opinions expressed by Ba Danjun and Andrey Karneev are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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