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China’s defense minister accepts Mattis’ personal invite to visit US

U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis meets with China’s Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe at the Bayi Building, China’s Ministry of National Defense in Beijing, June 27, 2018. (Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith/Department of Defense)
June 28, 2018

On Thursday, China commended the tone of meetings held with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Mattis’ Chinese counterpart, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, also accepted an invitation to visit the U.S. this year.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said Mattis’ visit “achieved positive, constructive outcomes,” Reuters reported. He added that the two countries achieved “important consensus” on issues involving trust, cooperation and risks.

The praise from China comes despite President Xi Jinping admitting China will not “give up even one inch” of land they claim is left behind by their ancestors in the South China Sea. It will, however, leave alone territory belonging to others.

“General Wei, I now publicly will invite you also to visit me in The Pentagon,” Mattis told Wei during the meeting.

Spokesperson Wu confirmed that Defense Minister Wei accepted Mattis’ invitation to visit.

Chinese leaders were receptive to Mattis’ open dialogue approach before the meeting, which was referred to as “refreshing and welcome” in an editorial published in China Daily, the nation’s state-run English media outlet.

It also referred to the efforts conducted by both militaries to improve relations and trust as “encouraging.”

However, the publication pointed out that “it would be unrealistic to expect that even by lending an ear to China’s words the differences between the two sides can be resolved by his two-day visit.”

Xi referred to the China-U.S. relationship as “one of the most important” of foreign relations, which should be highly regarded by both sides.

“But this perspective is not the general approach the U.S. has taken to relations under the presidency of Donald Trump, and for the two countries to continue to build on their common ground the U.S. must also treasure the relationship and match such words with actions,” China Daily said.

Xi said that relations can improve if the U.S. responds “with good faith.”

Mattis told Xi: “We are assigning the same high degree of importance to the military-to-military relationship, as you just noted.”

Mattis’ invitation to visit the U.S., and Wei’s acceptance, is consistent with efforts on both sides to improve relations and maintain an open dialogue.

Although Mattis’ visit to Beijing was his first – and the first of a U.S. Defense Secretary in four years – more are expected, as the two nations strive to smooth the rocky relations.

Mattis previously accused China of “intimidation and coercion” by militarizing the South China Sea. For this reason, The Pentagon withdrew an invitation to China to participate in the multinational naval exercise, RIMPAC. The annual exercise is intended to promote peace and improve international relations.

China responded by releasing a video showing off their naval capabilities, and it was filmed in the South China Sea. The video is considered a “diss video” by some.

It’s unclear whether or not the two nations will now soften their tone against one another in light of Mattis’ visit.