March 19, 2017 1:00 pm JST

Tillerson says Trump looks forward to enhancing understanding with China

A Chinese paramilitary policeman stands guard as a plane carrying U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing on March 18. © AP

BEIJING (Reuters) -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday that President Donald Trump looks forward to enhancing understanding with China and the opportunity for a visit in the future.

Xi said he was glad to see good progress from Tillerson's meetings in China so far and that he and Trump expect a new stage of constructive development in bilateral relations.

Tillerson said Trump places a "very high value on the communications that have already occurred" between Xi and Trump.

"He looks forward to enhancing that understanding in the opportunity for a visit in the future," Tillerson said.

"We know that through further dialogue we will achieve a greater understanding that will lead to a strengthening of the ties between China and the United States, and set the tone for our future relationship of cooperation."

Xi said Tillerson had made a lot efforts to achieve a smooth transition in this new era of relations.

"You said that China-U.S. relations can only be friendly. I express my appreciation for this," Xi said.

Xi added he had communicated with Trump several times.

"We both believe that China-U.S. cooperation henceforth is the directions we are both striving for. We are both expecting a new era for constructive development."

Tillerson and Xi were meeting in Beijing's Great Hall of the People at the end of Tillerson's first visit to China after taking office last month.

There was no mention of contentious issues like North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes or self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own.

North Korea conducted a test of a new high-thrust engine at its Tongchang-ri rocket launch station and leader Kim Jong Un said the successful test was "a new birth" of its rocket industry, Pyongyang's official media said on Sunday.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests and a series of missile launches, in defiance of U.N. sanctions, and is believed by experts and government officials to be working to develop nuclear-warhead missiles that could reach the United States.

Washington wants China, the North's neighbour and main trading partner, to use its influence to rein in the weapons programmes.

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