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Mike Pompeo to meet with Chinese officials in secret meeting this week amid tensions

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The meeting appears to be off the record, with unidentified sources supplying much of the information.

Pompeo – whose rhetoric regarding China throughout the coronavirus crisis has been notably critical – will meet with Yang Jiechi, a state councillor for China, South China Morning Post reports.

mike pompeo

Mike Pompeo has been vocal in his criticism of China throughout the pandemic. (Image: Andrew Harnik / Pool / AFP / Getty)

It’s believed that the meeting between the two officials will take place at the Hickam Air Force base in Hawaii, an unidentified source told Reuters.

And yet another source told the agency that Pompeo was due to leave Washington for the meeting at some point on Tuesday, and that the meeting would take place the following day.

If true, it will be Pompeo’s first meeting with Yang since the two spoke over the phone in mid-April to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic, Reuters adds.

According to the sources, it’s likely that the pandemic will be on the agenda in this upcoming meeting as well, while other talking points could be arms control, trade, North Korea, Hong Kong, and moves by either country against journalists from the other.

READ: Trump rejects further China trade talks on phase one deal

Hickam Air Force Base

The two officials are said to be meeting at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. (Image: Bruce Clarke / Getty)

The meeting was first reported by Politico last Friday.

China and the US have seen tensions flare particularly high during the coronavirus pandemic, though even beforehand the two countries had been embroiled in a trade war.

The trade dispute had seen tariffs slapped on imports from either nation, while the US has sought to balance out a trade deficit it has had with China for some years.

At the start of this year, the two countries announced a trade deal that could have signalled a mellowing down of the trade disputes.

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Xi Jinping

Xi Jingping, president of China. (Image: Amilcar Orfali / Getty)

But in May, Trump said he was “very torn” as to whether or not to uphold the trade deal amid concerns that China might struggle to uphold its side of it as the pandemic hits global economies.

In addition, the Trump administration, with Pompeo at the helm, has been openly critical of China throughout the Covid-19 outbreak, accusing it of lacking transparency.

Pompeo has previously said that there was “enormous evidence” that the virus had begun in a Wuhan laboratory – though he later told news outlet Breitbart that “We know it began in Wuhan, but we don’t know from where or from whom”.

Zuan Zhiming, a Wuhan laboratory official from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, said in April “absolutely no way that the virus original from our institute”.

More recently, Pompeo called out “vile propaganda emanating from China” after Chinese state media criticised the US government’s response to the protests over the killing of George Floyd last month, according to Politico.

And meanwhile, Reuters reports that the US has set in motion a process that would remove special US treatment for Hong Kong amid the concerns surrounding China’s plans for a controversial national security law in the region.

Many fear that this law would strip away the autonomy that Hong Kong – an international finance hub – currently enjoys despite technically being part of China.

In a statement, Pompeo accused China of employing “coercive bullying tactics” and voiced concerns over the country’s relationship with British banking giant HSBC and the UK more widely.

HSBC

Pompeo released a statement voicing concerns regarding China and HSBC. (Image: Scott Barbour / Getty)

He wrote: “In the latest example, Beijing has reportedly threatened to punish British bank HSBC and to break commitments to build nuclear power plants in the United Kingdom unless London allows Huawei to build its 5G network.

“The CCP’s [Chinese Communist Party] browbeating of HSBC, in particular, should serve as a cautionary tale. Just last week, the bank’s Asia-Pacific CEO, Peter Wong, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, signed a petition supporting Beijing’s disastrous decision to destroy Hong Kong’s autonomy and to break commitments made in an [sic] UN-registered treaty.

“That show of fealty seems to have earned HSBC little respect in Beijing, which continues to use the bank’s business in China as political leverage against London.”



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