With President Donald Trump scheduled to visit China in November as part of an Asian tour, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Beijing this weekend laying the groundwork -- with talks expected to focus on North Korea and trade.
Tillerson met Saturday with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and senior foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi -- with a meeting scheduled later in the day with President Xi Jinping, Agence France-Presse reported.
The secretary of state's arrival in China was delayed because of aircraft problems in Japan, AFP reported.
Trump has been pressing China to impose tougher measures on Pyongyang in a bid to ease tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, which has been goading the U.S. with a combination of weapons tests and threatening rhetoric. China is the North's No. 1 trading partner and source of aid and diplomatic support.
Some U.S. officials say Beijing seems increasingly cooperative with U.S. efforts to force U.N. sanctions upon North Korea as a way to change the North’s behavior, Reuters reported.
Trump's meeting with Xi in November will be the next test of that cooperation.
"Our two presidents have developed a very regular and close working relationship," Tillerson told Yang on Saturday, AFP reported. "I know President Trump is very much looking forward to the upcoming summit as is everyone on his team."
Yang, who is China's most senior diplomat, said Trump's trip was of "great importance" for Sino-US relations, the report said.
But just how much progress Tillerson can make on North Korea through talks with the Chinese remained unclear, the report said.
The secretary of state is “working against the unified view of our intelligence agencies, which say there’s no amount of pressure that can be put on [North Korea] to stop,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told a Senate hearing Thursday.
That’s because North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sees nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles as “his ticket to survival,” rather than a bargaining chip, Corker said.
Meanwhile, Tillerson was also expected to restate concerns about China's massive trade surplus with the U.S. -- $347 billion last year -- and what American companies say are unfair barriers to investment, including pressure to hand over their technology.
Washington wants Beijing to make good on its promise to let market forces have a bigger role in its economy, give equal treatment to foreign and Chinese companies and roll back state industry's dominance.
As for Trump, the president’s planned visit to China in November will come just weeks after Xi is expected to receive a new five-year term as leader of the ruling Communist Party.
Since taking office in January, Trump has forged a personal connection with Xi over phone calls and through an April meeting between the two leaders at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
In a prelude to his trip to Beijing, Trump met Thursday with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong in Washington.
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.