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A worker loads steel products onto a vehicle at a market in Fuyang, Anhui Province.   © AP
China people's congress 2018

Chinese foreign minister: Trade war is 'wrong prescription'

Beijing claims credit for warming North-South talks in Korea

BEIJING -- Speaking hours before U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to confirm new tariffs on metals imports, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday urged Washington to turn from the path of confrontation.

"Choosing a trade war is surely the wrong prescription," Wang said.

Trump had tweeted last week that "trade wars are good and easy to win." His plans to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum shipments will be felt mostly by U.S. allies such as Canada, South Korea and Germany. But Wang said in a press briefing on the sidelines of the annual National People's Congress session that "China will certainly make an appropriate and necessary response" if the tariffs are put in place.

Last year, about 36% of steel consumed in the U.S. was imported, but only 3% of the imports came from China, according to research company Wood Mackenzie. Its data showed that the U.S. was the destination for only 1.4% of China's steel exports.

Noting plans by the leaders of North and South Korea to meet next month and an offer by the North to suspend nuclear and missile tests while talks are proceeding, Wang said, "There is light at the end of the tunnel."

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned Japan against "backpedaling" on key issues.   © AP

China deserves credit for fostering the improved atmosphere, Wang said, pointing to Beijing's "freeze-for-freeze" proposal whereby the North would halt tests while the U.S. held off holding military exercises with South Korea. The North has not held any tests since November while the U.S. and South Korea pushed back planned exercises until after the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and Paralympics, though neither Washington nor Pyongyang explicitly embraced Beijing's idea.

Wang said that it is a "crucial moment" for testing the sincerity of all parties to move forward with denuclearization and the promotion of peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Wang also noted China's improved relations with Japan in recent months, pointing to "clearer and positive policies" from Tokyo. He said that China is willing to work with Japan to raise the level of relations if Tokyo does not "backpedal" on issues of importance to Beijing and comes to terms with his country's development.

Looking southward, Wang said that Beijing will propose a blueprint on a strategic partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that would run through 2030 and link with China's Belt and Road Initiative to promote trade and investment.

He noted a recent negotiating session regarding a code of conduct for the South China Sea. "China and ASEAN are willing and able to draft regional rules on our own, rules which will meet our region's imperatives and are to be adhered to by all," he said. Three more rounds of talks are scheduled for this year.

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