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China’s Jinping tells Mattis face-to-face ‘can’t lose one inch’ of disputed South China Sea

Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis meets with President of China Xi Jinping at Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing, China, June 27, 2018. (Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith, DOD/Flickr)
June 28, 2018

After meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Chinese President Xi Jinping maintained his position on militarizing the disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Mattis met with Xi on Wednesday to discuss issues including the militarization of the region, trade and others. However, officials of the two nations remained firm in their positions on top issues, which has only fueled the growing tensions, NDTV reported.

In a statement after the meeting, Xi expressed China’s firm position on the disputed islands.

“While seeing the existing common interests of China and the United States, we also do not shun the differences that exist between the two sides,” Xi said.

“Regarding the issue of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, our attitude is firm and clear. From the territory left by our ancestors, (we will not) give up even one inch,” he added.

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Xi told Mattis: “We cannot lose even one inch of the territory left behind by our ancestors.”

Despite the hard stances from each nation, U.S. officials claim it did not undermine Mattis’ efforts to create an open dialogue and improve relations between both militaries.

Communication on lesser issues resulted in some success, however.

In addition to meeting with Xi, Mattis met with his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe and politburo member Yang Jiechi. The meetings yielded agreement on an approach toward North Korea, Afghanistan and other issues.

After visiting bases in Alaska, Mattis landed in China recently on a six-day visit to Asia. He will also make stops in South Korea and Japan.

He went into the China talks to exchange “strategic perspectives” and to “determine where we have common interest and where our interests diverge.” He planned to “do a lot of listening” to promote open dialogue, Mattis had said.

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During his meeting with Xi, Mattis said: “This is an important time in the history of China and the United States, so I’m here to keep our relationship on the right trajectory,” The New York Times reported.

The meeting did not delve into tensions on trade, instead sticking to other issues in an effort to improve relations over time and limit conflict.

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said that “the discussions were candid and positive,” adding that “areas of disagreement were identified but not necessarily dwelled on.”

The Chinese greeted Mattis with a marching band performing the national anthems of both the U.S. and China, as well as showing off troops for Mattis’ review and ensuring dedicated meeting time with Xi.

“The Chinese-U.S. relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world,” Xi said. “The common ground of the two parties far exceeds the differences.”

Xi added that he desires a strong relationship between the U.S. and Chinese militaries.

“Strengthening exchanges and mechanisms at all levels between the two armed forces will help to dissipate misgivings and to prevent misunderstandings, miscalculations and accidents,” Xi said.

A Department of Defense statement said Mattis “emphasized that the U.S. and China bear responsibility for military-to-military relationship that serves the interests of both countries and the security of the Indo-Pacific region.”