US Makes Overtures to Calm EU Allies

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi meet on the sidelines of the G20 in Bonn, western Germany, on Feb. 17.US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi meet on the sidelines of the G20 in Bonn, western Germany, on Feb. 17.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis strongly affirmed that NATO was “a fundamental bedrock” for the US and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stuck to existing policies during a G20 foreign ministers meeting in Bonn, Germany

US Vice President Mike Pence will on Saturday voice a firm commitment to transatlantic ties, capping a weeklong European tour by top American officials seeking to reassure allies rattled by Donald Trump.

At the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Pence will “outline the administration’s view of the transatlantic relationship”, a senior White House foreign policy adviser said.

“He’s going to reassure our allies of our commitment to our European partners and the reassurance for the transatlantic alliance,” said the adviser. “You’ll hear too ... that we are the most secure and most prosperous when both the US and Europe are strong and united.”

Trump’s criticism of NATO as “obsolete”, his praise for Britain’s decision to leave the EU and his softer approach toward Russia have unnerved allies.

But over the past week in Europe, key members of his administration have come out to present a diverging stance from him.

At a NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday, Mattis said Russia must first “prove itself” and follow international law before the US and NATO can consider closer military ties.

He called the transatlantic bond “as strong as I’ve ever seen it”, and stressed America remained “rock solid” in its support of Article 5—NATO’s core collective-defense tenet that says an attack on any country will be met by a response from the alliance.

Likewise, Tillerson was cautious in his dealings with Russia, despite Trump’s pledges for closer ties.

Following his first sit-down with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Bonn on Thursday, Tillerson said the US will seek cooperation with Moscow only when doing so “will benefit the American people”.

Earlier, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen warned the US, “Your tone on Europe and NATO has a direct impact on the cohesion of our continent.”

And Polish President Andrzej Duda weighed in, “The basis of our strength is our transatlantic bond. We must not recklessly put it into question. We all realize that the consequence of a potential destabilization on Europe will be felt on both sides of the Atlantic.”

  Russia Sanctions

Russia is hoping Trump will make good on his pledge to improve tattered ties with Moscow and seek cooperation in the fight against the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group.

But for now, his administration is holding fast to sanctions against Russia over its role in the Ukraine conflict.

The position will be reiterated by Pence, who will underline that the Minsk accord mediated by France and Germany is “the framework for peace” in Ukraine.

He will signal that the goal is “to get both the Ukraine and Russia to come to the table and implement Minsk, and that’s the only thing that’s going to peacefully resolve the conflict”.

At the same time, Pence will ask allies to step up their defense spending to NATO target of 2% of output.

  China Ready to Engage US

Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China told his US counterpart Rex Tillerson that Beijing was ready to work with the Trump administration, according to a Chinese account of their meeting in Bonn.

Trump had infuriated Beijing by calling into question Washington’s longstanding “One China” policy, but later reaffirmed it in a conciliatory phone call to Chinese President Xi Jinping last week.

The “One China” policy is an acknowledgement that Taiwan is not separate from mainland China.

Wang told Tillerson, “China is ready to work with the US side to implement the consensus reached between President Xi and President Trump, and move the bilateral relationship forward in the direction that features no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.”

Wang added that the two sides should increase communication and cooperation “to ensure greater development of bilateral relations during Trump’s presidency”.

The US State Department said the two ministers discussed the need for a “level playing field for trade and investment”.

It said Tillerson also told Wang that Beijing must rein in North Korea after its series of nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

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