POKING THE DRAGON – US NSA: ‘We Want a Trade Deal with China, But Won’t Turn Blind Eye to Hong Kong’

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BEIJING/WASHINTON, D.C. – Washington wants a trade deal with Beijing, but it won’t turn a blind eye to Hong Kong, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien stated, adding that the US is very close to having a phase one deal done by the end of the year.

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“At the same time, we’re not going to turn a blind eye to what’s happening in Hong Kong or what’s happening in the South China Sea, or other areas of the world where we’re concerned about China’s activity,” he said, according to RIA Novosti.

He continued on by saying that the US wants the Hong Kong district elections to move forward without violence. The US hopes that there will not be a Tiananmen-style crackdown in Hong Kong, as that would be a “terrible thing,” he noted. The statements come amid a wave of rallies in Hong Kong against the now-withdrawn extradition bill.

US President Donald Trump has claimed that he supported the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, but stressed that he also backs China’s President Xi Jinping, particularly as Washington and Beijing are negotiating a historic trade deal.

The US president has expressed support for his Chinese counterpart, and at the same time sympathizing with the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. Trump claimed that the US and China are “potentially very close” to reaching an agreement. He also reiterated his view that China wants to make a deal “much more” than the US does.

Earlier this week, the US House of Representatives passed two bills on Hong Kong that seek to sanction Chinese and Hong Kong officials “involved in human rights abuse” and to ban exports of supplies to the city’s police that can be used to “crack down” on protesters.

China has strongly condemned the US Senate’s passage of the measures, accusing US lawmakers of meddling in the East Asian country’s internal affairs. Hong Kong has been facing a wave of rallies against the now-withdrawn extradition bill since June. The protests eventually escalated into violent confrontations between demonstrators and the police.

Beijing has reiterated that the situation in Hong Kong is a direct result of foreign interference in China’s domestic affairs and expressed full support for the local authorities’ actions. On 19 November, Trump announced that he would raise tariffs on Chinese products and services if a deal in trade negotiations is not reached.

Washington and Beijing are expected to sign a “Phase One” trade agreement later this year. The Phase One deal is expected to cover key trade issues, including intellectual property, financial services and US agricultural exports. China has also agreed to purchase $40 to $50 billion worth of US agricultural goods under the Phase One trade deal, according to Trump.

Vice Premier Liu He stated that the trade negotiations must be conducted on the basis of mutual respect to address the two countries’ concerns. The trade row between the world’s two largest economies erupted in June 2018, when the United States imposed the first round of tariffs on Chinese imports, prompting Beijing to respond in kind. Since then, the two countries have been engaged in a full-blown trade war.

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