Blinken opens second day of talks in Beijing on mission to ease rising US-China tensions

BEIJING (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken opened a second and final day of critical meetings with senior Chinese officials as both sides expressed a willingness to talk but showed little desire to bow to hardened positions that have raised tensions.

Blinken was meeting senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi on Monday morning and a meeting with President Xi Jinping was still in the cards before his late evening departure.

Neither Blinken nor Wang made any comments to reporters as they greeted each other and sat down for their discussion.

During the first round of talks on Sunday, Blinken met for nearly six hours with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, after which the two countries said they had agreed to continue high-level talks. However, there was no indication that one of the most difficult issues between them was any closer to a resolution.

Both sides said Qin had accepted an invitation from Blinken to visit Washington, but Beijing clarified that “China-US relations are at their lowest since their establishment.” This sentiment is widely shared by US officials.

The State Department said Blinken emphasized “the importance of diplomacy and maintaining open channels of communication on all issues to reduce the risk of misperception and miscalculation.”

The Chinese, meanwhile, reaffirmed their position that the current state of relations “does not serve the fundamental interests of the two peoples or meet the shared expectations of the international community”, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Blinken is the most senior US official to visit China since President Joe Biden took office and his two-day trip comes after his initial plans to travel to China were postponed in February following the shooting down of a Chinese surveillance balloon over the United States.

Despite Blinken’s presence in China, he and other U.S. officials have downplayed prospects for meaningful breakthroughs on the thorniest issues facing the world’s two largest economies.

Still, his talks could pave the way for a meeting in the coming months between Biden and Xi. Biden said on Saturday he hoped to be able to meet with Xi in the coming months to address the plethora of differences that divide them.

This long list includes disagreements ranging from trade in Taiwan, human rights conditions in China and Hong Kong to Chinese military assertion in the South China Sea and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

In his Sunday meetings, Blinken also urged the Chinese to release detained U.S. citizens and take action to curb the production and export of fentanyl precursors that are fueling the opioid crisis in the United States.

Blinken “made it clear that the United States will always uphold the interests and values ​​of the American people and work with our allies and partners to advance our vision of a world that is free, open, and respects the rules-based international order, the State Department said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry replied in its statement that “China hopes that the United States will adopt an objective and rational view of China, work with China in the same direction, maintain the political foundation of China-US relations and handle unexpected and sporadic events in a calm, professional and rational manner.

Blinken and other officials stressed the importance for the United States and China to establish and maintain better lines of communication.

Biden and Xi had pledged to improve communications “precisely so that we can ensure that we communicate as clearly as possible to avoid potential misunderstandings and miscommunications,” Blinken said before leaving.

Xi hinted at a possible desire to reduce tensions, saying during a meeting with Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates on Friday that the United States and China can cooperate to “benefit our two countries “.

Since the cancellation of Blinken’s trip in February, there have been high profile engagements. CIA chief William Burns visited China in May, while China’s commerce minister visited the United States. And Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Wang Yi in Vienna in May.

But these were punctuated by outbursts of angry rhetoric from both sides over the Taiwan Strait, their broader intentions in the Indo-Pacific, China’s refusal to condemn Russia for its war on Ukraine. and US allegations from Washington that Beijing is trying to boost its global surveillance capabilities, including in Cuba.

And, earlier this month, China’s defense minister rejected a request from US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for a meeting on the sidelines of a security symposium in Singapore, a sign of lingering discontent. .

Meanwhile, the national security advisers of the United States, Japan and the Philippines held their first joint talks last week and agreed to strengthen their defense cooperation, in part to counter the influence and China’s growing ambitions.

This coincides with the Biden administration signing a deal with Australia and Britain to supply the first nuclear-powered submarines, with China moving quickly to expand its diplomatic presence, particularly in the United States. Indian Ocean and Pacific Island nations, where it has opened or plans to open at least five new embassies over the next year.

The agreement is part of an 18-month-old nuclear partnership, under the acronym AUKUS – for Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

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