China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi (L) stands beside Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono. Photo: AFP/Tomohiro Ohsumi
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi (L) stands beside Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono. Photo: AFP/Tomohiro Ohsumi

China said on Tuesday it has scheduled a layover in Washington for its top diplomat on Wednesday on his way back from a G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Argentina.

“China and the US will exchange views on bilateral relations and issues of common interest,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Tuesday of foreign minister Wang Yi’s visit.

The trip comes on the heels of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s meeting with his US counterpart, during which US President Donald Trump suggested that China was undermining his diplomatic outreach to North Korea.

“I think there was a little change in attitude from Kim Jong-un,” Trump said, in reference to statements released by North Korea following Kim’s second meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. “So I don’t like that,” he added.

“President Xi is a world-class poker player and I’d probably, may be doing the same thing that he would do. But I will say this, there was a somewhat different attitude after that meeting, and I’m a little surprised,” Trump said.

While saying that there may be cause for a delay of his summit with Kim, Trump also expressed a willingness to compromise on the process of denuclearization, acknowledging that complete disarmament would take time.

Wang is expected to push for a “step-by-step, simultaneous” denuclearization process, according to Hankyoreh. Should the US sign on to such a plan, it would be despite consistent messaging from Trump administration that such an arrangement is not on the table.

Meanwhile, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono plans a sit down with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also scheduled for Wednesday after a change in his travel schedule, Hankyoreh reported. Japan has consistently pushed for both a broadening of issues on the table in discussions with the North and a policy of keeping sanctions pressure in place until concrete actions are verified.

In addition to North Korea, differences on the South China Sea – an issue that was front and center when Wang met with counterparts in Argentina – will likely be addressed.

A statement released by the Chinese government painted a picture of a lukewarm meeting between Wang and Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop at the G20 gathering.

“Due to the Australian side, China-Australia relations have encountered some difficulties recently, and the exchanges and cooperation between the two countries have also been affected. This is not what China hopes to see,” Wang told Bishop, according to the Chinese statement, as reported by The Sydney Morning Herald. In contrast, Bishop described the meeting as “very warm and candid and constructive.”