BEIJING, June 18 (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Beijing early Sunday on a key diplomatic mission to try to defuse U.S.-China tensions that have rattled many around the world.
Blinken will begin two days of talks with senior Chinese officials in the afternoon. He is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit China since President Biden took office, and he is also the first Secretary of State to visit China in five years.
He postponed a planned visit in February after a surveillance balloon over China was shot down
However, the prospect of any major breakthrough on the thorniest issue facing the world’s two largest economies is slim as relations have become increasingly fraught in recent years. Animosity and recriminations have escalated over a series of disagreements affecting global security and stability.
On Sunday, Blinken plans to meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, top diplomat Wang Yi and possibly Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to U.S. officials.
Biden and Xi agreed early on to Blinken’s visit during a meeting in Bali last year. It happened on a single day in February, but was delayed by diplomatic and political turmoil over the discovery that what the United States said was a Chinese spy balloon flying over the United States had been shot down.
The list of points of disagreement and potential conflict is long: from trade with Taiwan, China’s human rights situation to Hong Kong, and China’s military assertiveness in the South China Sea to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
U.S. officials said before Blinken left Washington on Friday that he would raise every issue, but neither side showed any inclination to back down.
Shortly before his departure, Blinken emphasized the importance of establishing and maintaining better channels of communication between the United States and China. He told reporters that the United States wanted to ensure that “our competition with China does not turn into conflict through avoidable misunderstandings.”
Blinken said Friday that Biden and Xi had made a commitment to improve communication “precisely to ensure that our communication is as clear as possible to avoid possible misunderstandings and miscommunications.”
Xi signaled a possible willingness to ease tensions, saying the United States and China could work together “for the benefit of our two countries” during a meeting with Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates on Friday.
“I think the foundation of the China-U.S. relationship is the people,” Xi told Gates. “In the current world situation, we can carry out various activities that benefit our two countries, our two peoples and all mankind.”
Biden told White House reporters on Saturday that he “hopes that over the next few months, I will be able to meet with Xi Jinping again to discuss the legitimate differences we have and how … to get along.” The opportunity may come in September At the G20 leaders meeting in New Delhi and at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco hosted by the US in November.
There have been some high-level contacts since Blinken’s trip was canceled in February. CIA Director William Burns visited China in May, while China’s commerce minister visited the United States, and Biden’s national security adviser, Jack Sullivan, met Wang in Vienna in May.
But these have popped up at times over the Taiwan Strait, outbursts of angry rhetoric from both sides, their broader intentions in the Indo-Pacific, China’s refusal to condemn Russia’s war on Ukraine, and U.S. accusations that Beijing is trying to boost its global surveillance capabilities, including in Cuba.
And, in a sign of ongoing discontent, earlier this month, China’s defense minister rejected a request by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to hold talks on the sidelines of a security seminar in Singapore.
Austin said Friday that he believes he and his Chinese counterpart will “meet at some point, but we’re not there yet.”
Underscoring the situation, China rejected a report by a U.S. security firm that accused China-linked hackers of attacking hundreds of public institutions, schools and other targets around the world as “far-fetched and unprofessional.”
A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry has repeatedly accused Washington of hacking and complained that the cybersecurity industry rarely reported the incidents.
Earlier this week, China said Qin urged the U.S. to respect “China’s core concerns” in a phone call with Blinken, such as Taiwan’s autonomy issue, and to “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and undermining China’s sovereignty, security and development in the name of competition.” Benefit.”
Meanwhile, the national security advisers of the United States, Japan and the Philippines held their first joint talks on Friday, agreeing to strengthen defense cooperation in part to counter China’s growing influence and ambitions.
This coincides with the Biden administration signing deals with Australia and the United Kingdom to deliver the first nuclear-powered submarines, and China rapidly expanding its diplomatic presence, particularly in the Indian Ocean and Pacific island nations, where it has opened or plans to open at least five new submarines in the next year. embassy.
The agreement is part of an 18-month nuclear partnership, abbreviated AUKUS – which stands for Australia, the UK and the US.
Before Blinken departed, two U.S. officials played down hopes of significant progress and stressed that the trip was aimed at restoring calm and normalcy to high-level contacts.
Daniel Kritenbrink, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia and the Pacific, said: “We come to Beijing with realism, confidence and a genuine desire to manage the our competition.”
Kurt Campbell, an expert on Asia at the US National Security Council, said, “If we are going to manage tensions, fierce competition requires fierce diplomacy. This is the only way to eliminate misunderstandings, send signals, communicate and cooperate. When our interests align time.” (Associated Press)
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)