Top US officials arrive in China for trade talks as deadline looms

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US Navy warships just challenged China with a South China Sea sail-by operation, and Beijing is furious

Two reports, from the South China Morning Post and Axios, indicate that Beijing and Washington both remain interested in a face-to-face meeting between General Secretary Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 and President Donald Trump to settle trade and economic disputes.

"I could see myself letting that slide for a little while", Trump of the March 2 deadline.

China and the United States have repeatedly traded barbs in the past over what Washington says is Beijing's militarisation of the South China Sea by building military installations on artificial islands and reefs.

After that date, US tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are scheduled to increase to 25 percent from 10 percent. And while no date has yet been agreed for a meeting with China's President Xi Jinping, he said he expects that to happen "at some point".

"I think they're making progress and my hope is that by March 1 there will be enough progress to be made that at a minimum, there could be a delay in the imposition of additional tariffs", Portman told reporters. Officials have said March 1 is a "real deadline" for reaching a deal. But the two sides are only just starting the work of drafting a common document and are still tussling over how a deal may be enforced, which US officials have repeatedly called a crucial element.

"We respect all countries' right for freedom of navigation and flight under worldwide law, but we firmly oppose any action to jeopardize the sovereignty and security of countries under the pretext of freedom of navigation", Hua said Monday.

"He has forged a mutually respectful relationship with President Xi", Conway said. China will likely respond by raising tariffs on $60 billion worth of USA goods that it announced a year ago in retaliation.

The warships were shadowed by Chinese assets, but the interactions were routine and uneventful, according to a separate US official. It has fast-tracked approval of a law that would ban theft of intellectual property and forced technology transfers, but the question is how much more it can compromise.

Communist superpower China claims ownership over nearly all of the South China Sea - frequently slamming the United States and its allies for naval operations in the territory.

Erin Ennis, senior vice president of the U.S. The American-side often doesn't announce such sail-bys in the South China Sea, where China's claims overlap with those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

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