Trump looks forward to visiting China: US state secretary

But North Korea's continued progress towards putting a nuclear warhead on a missile capable of striking U.S. territory has forced the North Korea issue to the forefront of U.S. -China relations.

As if to underline the seriousness of the situation, even as Tillerson was discussing North Korea with his Chinese hosts, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presided over the test launch of a new rocket engine. Such tools are easily rejiggered to function as missiles.

The Chinese head of State confirmed that he has been communicating several times with US President Donald Trump and assured that both are trying to hold a cooperation between the two nations to a new era of constructive development.

On Thursday in Tokyo, Tillerson called for a "new approach" to dealing with North Korea.

North Korea is banned by the international community from pursuing nuclear and missile programmes but has defiantly ploughed ahead.

"He looks forward to enhancing that understanding in the opportunity for a visit in the future", Tillerson said. "I express my appreciation for this", Mr Xi said.

But expectations for the visit were relatively low.

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After Donald Trump assumed the US presidency, the US-China ties have been under cloud.

However, Tillerson yesterday held lengthy round of "frank and candid" talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

"The symbolism here is going to be as important as the substance", he said on the sidelines of a conference in Beijing.

The North conducted two nuclear tests last year alone following those in 2006, 2009 and 2013.

From the hard-line tone of the Trump administration, Pyongyang must not dare to provoke Washington as it could lead to its own doom.

In order to healthily and steadily boost China-US ties, both sides could enhance the high-level and multi-level exchanges, expand the cooperation at the bilateral, regional and global levels, and properly handle the most sensitive issues, he added. "China has since far surpassed its previous climate ally, leaving the United States woefully behind the rest of the world". He is flying this week without the usual contingent of journalists who normally cover the secretary of state. Tillerson said China should focus on the North Korean threat that makes the deployment necessary. Both sides expressed their wish to strengthen relations and deepen cooperation. The communique issued on Saturday was milder than the last one, from 2016. Tillerson's visit is expected to pave the way for their first meeting, as early as next month, at Trump's private club in Mar-a-Lago, Florida.

Concerns about North Korea and its increasingly threatening behavior dominated discussions during Tillerson's first trip to the region, which included stops in Japan, South Korea and China, the final stop.

"The North Koreans continue to advance their nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities to the point that they are now, not necessarily testing their missiles, they are showing off their missiles' capabilities".

  • Lola Watson