China, the US ease restrictions on journalists at North Korea summit

BEIJING — American and Chinese officials agreed Saturday to relax restrictions on journalists and government officials who cover one another as the two countries continue to press for a settlement of a crisis over…

China, the US ease restrictions on journalists at North Korea summit

BEIJING — American and Chinese officials agreed Saturday to relax restrictions on journalists and government officials who cover one another as the two countries continue to press for a settlement of a crisis over North Korea’s nuclear program.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong confirmed the agreement at a joint news conference with the visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton, saying foreign media traveling with Chinese officials will now be able to report what they see freely, rather than being limited to who the Chinese officials allow to enter.

“China will do more to recognize and respect media freedom,” Thornton said. “This is one very important step forward in opening to the world, and it is another indicator of the China-U.S. friendship that is very beneficial to the world’s development.”

Observers say the loosening of restrictions was part of a broader effort to ease relations between the two powers ahead of their first high-level meeting in North Korea since Trump took office and a week after Trump decided to cancel Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to North Korea for a fresh round of nuclear talks because of what the Trump administration called China’s failure to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

The announcement was welcomed by news organizations that had pressed for more freedom for their journalists to report on China’s initiatives on climate change, trade and other issues.

“We are pleased that the State Department’s Mike Pompeo has issued a welcome clarification with respect to China’s visa arrangements with journalists,” said the Committee to Protect Journalists in a statement Saturday. “This clarification should allow the CPJ and other member organizations to move forward with issuing visas as expeditiously as possible.”

Beijing, which is hoping to bolster its global clout, maintains tight control over news coverage in the country, forbidding most foreign journalists from reporting freely in the country and also limiting the number of visas it grants to foreign journalists.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has been unmoved, saying earlier this year that foreign journalists should respect China’s national security and publicity requirements and not “take advantage of issues related to China’s openness and reform.”

Foreign journalists are limited in reporting their work inside China to only foreign officials or government officials working for one of China’s nearly two dozen diplomatic missions abroad.

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