US urges China on religious rights, South China Sea, Taiwan

The US Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have challenged their Chinese counterparts Friday in a meeting for a summit between their nation's presidents against their freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and other issues.

Although Pompeo noted that the American-Chinese diplomatic and security dialogue in Washington & # 39; productive & # 39; was, he emphasized the oppression by China of some religious groups.

"The United States and the international communities will continue to express our concern about China's repression of religious groups – Christians, Buddhists and 800,000 to possibly millions of Muslims – who have been denied their liberties," said Pompeo at a joint press conference after the talks of Friday.

Minister of Defense Jim Mattis, left, state secretary Mike Pompeo, second from the left, Chinese politburo member Yang Jiechi, third from the right, and Chinese state council and defense minister General Wei Fenghe, second from the right, meet at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Washington, November 9, 2018.

When the Chinese politician Yang Jiechi pressed VOA during the briefing, he said that these issues' the internal affairs of China & # 39; and that & # 39; foreign does not have the right to interfere with it & # 39 ;.

Beijing has defended its internment camps in the west of Xinjiang, which according to human rights groups house about 1 million Muslim men and women.

China says that the vocational training centers are focused on ensuring safety. Activists say that there is torture, widespread surveillance and signs that those who are being held are forced to abandon their faith.

Yang noted on Friday that the Chinese government attaches great importance to social and economic development in Xinjiang and Tibet and has taken numerous measures to promote stability, "unity" and the well-being of the people there. Xinjiang is home to ethnic Uighurs, the Turkic-speaking minority in the region, ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslims.

Taiwan policy

During Friday's dialogue, US officials also confirmed "strong ties" with Taiwan, which had been predominant since the 1940s, but claimed by China.

"I reiterated that US policy has not changed and that we are worried about China's increasing efforts to force others to restrict Taiwan's international space," said Pompeo.

In response to a question from VOA, the high Chinese diplomat Yang remarked: "Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory", and with that, the addition of Beijing would remain its "One China principle".

The nuance between the "One China Policy" of China and the Chinese "One China Principle" is that the American attitude leaves open the possibility that China and Taiwan can resolve peaceful differences in a peaceful way.

The United States sees Taiwan as part of a network of Asian democracies and informal Taiwan-US. the ties have improved under the US President Donald Trump. He signed the Taiwan Travel Act earlier this year, which encourages visits "at all levels" between US and Taiwanese officials.

And a high-profile meeting could take place in the coming days, when Vice President Mike Pence travels to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Papua New Guinea. Diplomatic sources indicate that appointments are being made for Pence to meet with Morris Chang, a retired tech guru who founded Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), on the sideline of the APEC Summit.

FILE - A demonstrator carries flags of Taiwan and the United States in support of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen during a stopover after her visit to Latin America in Burlingame, California, January 14, 2017.

FILE – A demonstrator carries flags of Taiwan and the United States in support of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen during a stopover after her visit to Latin America in Burlingame, California, January 14, 2017.

A senior official said that the meetings of Pence with regional leaders were still planned, but a meeting between Pence and Chang, Taiwan's envoy to APEC, was not ruled out.

"The United States will meet with whomever want to meet the United States," the official said when asked if China warned of such an encounter.

South Chinese Ocean

On the issue of the South China Sea, Chinese officials said the United States should stop sending ships and planes in the vicinity of islands that China considers to be its own.

The disputed sea is an important Asian trade route, where Beijing has landed areas for military infrastructure.

"We remain concerned about Chinese activities and militarization in the South China Sea," Pompeo told reporters on Friday. "We have put China under pressure to meet its earlier obligations in this area."

Officials in the US said they did not stop the so-called patrols about freedom of navigation aimed at preventing countries from restricting traffic in international waters.

Both countries have looked for ways to reduce tension, maintain open communication lines and reduce the risk of miscalculation in the South China Sea.

Mattis said that all military and civilian ships and aircraft must "operate in a safe and professional manner" in the disputed international waters.

"The United States is committed to the completion of a deconflict and communication framework between military and military crisis with China," said Mattis after Friday's talks at the Foreign Office.