Pence to deliver China policy speech next Thursday: White House official

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence attends a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence plans to deliver his second major policy speech on China next Thursday, a White House official told Reuters, as hopes that a partial deal between Beijing and Washington to ease a tit-for-tat trade war grow.

Pence, who has often struck a hawkish tone on China, will deliver the remarks for the Wilson Center at the Conrad Hotel in Washington, the person said, about a year after he harshly criticized Beijing in an address at the Hudson Institute think tank.

The address will “reflect on the U.S.-China relationship over the past year and look at the future of our relationship,” the official said without offering further details.

Reuters reported last month that a major speech by Pence on China that was originally scheduled for June and was expected to take a hawkish stance on Beijing, had been rescheduled for later this year.

The speech will be delivered just weeks after President Donald Trump, flanked by Chinese negotiators, gave a vague outline of the first phase of a deal with Beijing and suspended a threatened tariff hike, signaling a thaw in trade relations between the two countries.

But that same week, Washington put Chinese video surveillance firm Hikvision and dozens of other Chinese entities on a blacklist to punish them for the treatment of Muslim minorities, ratcheting up pressure on Beijing over human rights issues.

Despite the mixed signals, many China watchers see Pence’s role as playing “bad cop” on China, so that Trump can shift his tone as he sees fit to strike a deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

At Pence’s Hudson Institute address last year, Pence accused China of “malign” efforts to undermine Trump ahead of congressional elections and reckless military actions in the South China Sea.

Last Month, Pence canceled plans to meet the leader of the Solomon Islands after the Pacific island cut ties with Taiwan in favor of China.

Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alistair Bell