A highly anticipated, face-to-face meeting between Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe will take place later this week at the Pentagon, U.S. defense officials confirmed Monday.
Mr. Wei will meet with Mr. Mattis and other top department personnel during the two-day visit, Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning told reporters. He declined to provide specifics on what particular issued both defense chiefs plan to address during the visit.
The confirmation comes a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced plans to meet with Kim Yong-chol, North Korea’s No. 2 official in New York next week. Mr. Pompeo’s meeting will be geared toward Trump administration’s ongoing diplomatic effort to persuade Pyongyang to embrace complete denuclearization on the peninsula, he told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
This week’s meeting in New York will be one pf several conducted by the secretary of state in the weeks and months since Mr. Trump’s landmark summit in June with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore.
But Monday’s announcement of Mr. Mattis’ meeting with Mr. Wei comes as the White House opted to grant temporary waivers to Beijing, along with several other countries, from reimposed economic sanctions against Iran. The other countries are India, South Korea, Turkey, Italy, Greece, Japan and Taiwan.
Discussions over a possible meeting between the two defense leaders had been percolating since October, when they held a sideline meeting during a regional national security conference in Singapore. But U.S.-China military relations quickly soured thereafter. Tensions reached a head when the White House cancelled a previously scheduled visit by Mr. Mattis to Beijing that month.
The Trump administration continues to implemented billions of dollars in tariffs on Chinese goods, part of the president’s vow to cut America’s $376 billion trade deficit with China. Beijing has responded by putting in place its own tariffs on U.S. goods, further escalating fears of a full-blown trade war between the two world powers.