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WATCH LIVE: Tillerson and Mattis to hold joint news conference after talks with China

The U.S. and China began high-level security talks Wednesday focused largely on North Korea, amid outrage in Washington over the death of an American college student after his imprisonment in the North.

President Donald Trump has been counting on China to use its economic leverage with the government of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as American concern grows over the North’s acceleration towards having a nuclear missile that can strike the U.S. mainland.

In meetings at the State Department involving U.S. and Chinese diplomats and defence chiefs, North Korea was to get “top billing,” according to Susan Thornton, the senior U.S. diplomat for East Asia.

The U.S. and China are trying to build on “positive momentum” created when Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Florida in April, she said.

[READ NEXT: Will Otto Warmbier’s death affect U.S. strategy on North Korea?]

This year’s meeting separates out the security aspects. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis were hosting Chinese foreign policy chief Yang Jiechi and General Fang Fenghui, the chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s joint staff department.

Thornton said the talks would cover the South China Sea, where Beijing’s island-building and construction of possible military facilities have rattled neighbours and caused tension with Washington; U.S.-Chinese military cooperation to reduce risk of conflict; and efforts to defeat the Islamic State group.

Divisive trade issues will be dealt with at a later date.

Tillerson and Mattis are holding a joint news conference at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the State Department. Watch it live in the player above.

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