US Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived in Beijing on Tuesday to meet high ranking Chinese officials. Mattis is the first US Defense Secretary to visit China since 2014, after he criticized Beijing’s activities in the South China Sea.

Meetings include talks with US diplomats and Chinese military leaders. It is unclear, however, what influence the trade war between the two countries will have on the meetings. Mattis, however, is known for his firm stance – his reputation in the Pentagon says that he can impose his will on both soldiers and generals (or presidents).

The key issue is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in connection with the commitments made at the Summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The United States has already suspended the implementation of two military training programs with South Korea. At the same time, however, faithful to his style, US President Donald Trump announced on June 23 that North Korea is still an “extreme threat” to the United States.

Despite his tough image, Mattis’s visit suggests that the Trump administration still wants a military dialogue with China. Such bilateral talks will reduce the tensions between the two countries and is better than blindly guessing the strategic ambitions of the other. At least for the moment, China is not reporting any intention or ambition to challenge US global influence. On the contrary, the Chinese are deeply concerned about Washington’s plans to hold Beijing aggressively, including trade measures.

Incidentally or not, Mattis’s visit coincided with large-scale trials of DF-10A strategic ground-based rocket missiles. The powerful missiles are designed aftr the Soviet strategic wing missile X-55, whose documentation, including prototypes, came to China from Ukraine. The maximum range is 2500 kilometers. Beijing has announced the tests are extremely successful, which inevitably implies that it has the highest class armament ready for use when needed. Such demonstrations most often have a symbolic effect and are intended to suggest that the country has a whole list of responses in the event of an external conflict.