Chinese President Xi Jinping and Rex Tillerson, the  US secretary of state,  have met in Beijing and sent out a message that they would work to strengthen ties between their countries.

Xi said, after the meeting on Sunday, that he and US President Donald Trump had resolved in a phone call last month “that we need to make joint efforts to advance China-US cooperation and we believe that we can make sure the relationship will move ahead in a constructive fashion in the new era”.

He said: “I’m confident that as long as we can do this, the relationship can surely move in the right direction.”

In his first first face-to-face talks with Chinese leaders, TIllerson pledged to work together in addressing the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear programme and cautioned that regional tensions had reached a “dangerous level”.

Asia tour presents challenges for Tillerson

Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown, reporting from Beijing, said Tillerson’s meeting with Xi was a courtesy call that only lasted seven minutes.

“President Xi Jinping was receiving the US secretary of state because China’s top envoy was in Washington last month where he met President Donald Trump,” he said.

“The real talking was done behind the scenes on Saturday, principally with China’s foreign minister Wang Yi, and North Korea topped the agenda.

“We’ve seen flickers of cooperation between the US and China but no firm agreement on how to deal with North Korea.”

Conciliatory language

The language from Tillerson and Wang was notably conciliatory after a run-up in which Trump accused China of doing nothing to control its rogue neighbour, while China accused the US of fuelling hostilities.

“I think we share a common view and a sense that tensions in the peninsula are quite high right now and that things have reached a rather dangerous level,” Tillerson said after talks with Wang.

“We will work together to see if we cannot bring the government in Pyongyang to a place where they want to make a different course, make a course correction, and move away from the development of nuclear weapons.”

Tillerson on North Korea: ‘All options on the table’

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Beijing, Victor Gao, director of the China National Association of International Studies, said: “US-China trade right now is worth almost $600bn and it is a fact that China has a huge surplus in the trade with the US.

“What China wants to see is that, rather than get at each other’s throat, both China and the US further increase their exports to each other, eventually reaching about $1 trillion.”

Tillerson, a former oil executive, began his first Asian visit as secretary of state in Japan on Wednesday followed by South Korea. He travelled to  China  from South Korea on Saturday.

Previously, Tillerson had said in Tokyo that 20 years of diplomatic and other efforts, including a period when the US provided North Korea with $1.35bn in assistance “to take a different pathway”, had come to nothing.


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