US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson welcomed Chinese state councillor Yang Jiechi to Washington on Thursday as the world’s two most powerful diplomats talked trade, drugs and North Korea. Yang is in Washington for two days at a time when relations between the top powers are dominated by the North Korean nuclear stand-off and President Donald Trump’s concerns about their trade imbalance. His first port of call was the State Department, where he held closed door talks and had a working lunch with Tillerson, who is keen to keep China on board with a diplomatic push to force Pyongyang to negotiate its own nuclear disarmament. “During the meeting, both sides reaffirmed President Trump and President Xi’s commitment to keep up pressure on North Korea’s illegal nuclear weapons and missile programs,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. “They discussed the need to achieve a fair and reciprocal bilateral economic relationship, and shared approaches to stemming the flow of deadly narcotics,” she added. Yang told Tillerson that the two countries could address trade disputes by further opening their markets to each other and “making a bigger cake of cooperation,” the official Xinhua news service reported after the meeting. Washington is also pushing China to support Trump’s “maximum pressure” drive to force Pyongyang to abandon its quest to build nuclear-armed long-range missiles capable of hitting US cities. “We hope that China will do more because we know that they can do more in terms of adhering to UN Security Council resolutions and sanctions that have been put in place against North Korea,” Nauert said. In the talks, however, Yang apparently stuck to China’s long-standing position that the issues on the Korean peninsula “should be solved through dialogue and negotiation,” Xinhua reported, implying that Washington’s approach could damage peace efforts. Published in Daily Times, February 10th2018.