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China voices concern over Tillerson’s firing

Beijing, Wednesday

China voiced hope today Donald Trump’s sudden firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will not impact bilateral relations or planned talks between the US president and North Korea’s leader.

Beijing is believed to have a positive assessment of Tillerson, who was seen as a light touch in contrast to Trump’s “good cop, bad cop” routine of slamming Beijing on Twitter while simultaneously flattering its leadership in person.

“We hope that this personnel change will at the least not have any effect on the development of Sino-US bilateral relations or Sino-US cooperation in some important areas,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters at a regular press briefing.

The firing comes as Trump prepares for delicate talks with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. Lu said China hopes that the US “can maintain the positive situation that has recently developed on the Korean peninsula, including the positive desire shown by both the American and North Korean sides for willing, direct talks.” Tuesday’s sacking caps a tumultuous tenure for the Texas oilman.

He was repeatedly forced to deny he had fallen out with Trump — vowing to remain in his post despite a sensational report that he once dubbed the president a “moron”. Ironically, one of Trump’s most public clashes with Tillerson came when the president accused his top diplomat of “wasting his time” pursuing contacts with North Korea.

Tillerson was thought to have made a major concession to China when he publicly repeated Beijing’s rhetoric about the Sino-US relationship during his first trip to the country.

“We appreciated Tillerson’s efforts to promote the development of Sino-US relations,” Lu said, adding “we hope that Tillerson will continue to care for and support the development of Sino-US relations in the future.”

Lu said China is “willing to work” with Trump’s nominee for the top diplomat job, CIA boss Mike Pompeo, to continue relations based on mutual respect and co-operation. —AFP

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