HONG KONG -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo drew a cool reception from Beijing on Monday, as he concluded his three-day visit to Asia amid deteriorating bilateral ties with China.
In candid remarks during a joint appearance with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Pompeo said Washington was in "fundamental disagreement" with China over trade issues, domestic matters and foreign policy.
Striking back, Wang accused the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump of "escalating trade friction," "jeopardizing China's rights and interests on the Taiwan issue," and "unwarrantedly condemning Beijing on its domestic and foreign policies," state media reported.
The crossfire, before the two officials met for private talks, came days after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence accused Beijing in a highly charged speech of a "maligning" campaign to undermine Trump ahead of U.S. midterm elections next month.
In similarly strong words, Wang was quoted by Reuters as saying: "We believe this has been a direct attack on our mutual trust, and has cast a shadow on China-U. S. relations." Wang was speaking after Pompeo briefed him on his Sunday meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang. "We demand that the U.S. side stop this kind of mistaken action," Wang said.
Pompeo said the U.S. side had "great concerns" over China's actions and had a "fundamental disagreement" on the issues that Wang pointed to. But the U.S. diplomat said he looked forward to discussing each of those matters during their meeting, as the two countries have an "incredibly important relationship."
Pompeo also met Yang Jiechi, a senior cabinet official and former foreign minister before heading back to the U.S. Yang urged both countries to expand political cooperation, Reuters reported.
At the same time, relations between the U.S. and North Korea appear to be improving. Kim described his talks with Pompeo as "productive and wonderful," according to North Korean state media KCNA. Both sides agreed to arrange a summit between Kim and Trump "as soon as possible."
Pompeo's trip to Asia began on Saturday in Japan, where he met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo. On Sunday, he met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Seoul after his meeting earlier in the day with Kim in Pyongyang.