Senior Biden administration officials will hold their first face-to-face talks with their Chinese counterparts next week, the White House and State Department said Wednesday.
The meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan and China’s top foreign policy officials comes as the two countries navigate intense disagreements over trade and human rights in Tibet, Hong Kong and the western Xinjiang region, as well as the coronavirus pandemic and increasing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea.
Cooperation on North Korea and how to constrain or end its nuclear weapons program is also likely to top the agenda of the March 18 meeting between Blinken and Sullivan and Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi and the foreign affairs chief of the Chinese Communist Party, Yang Jiechi, in Anchorage, Alaska.
“It’s pretty simple,” Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee of his plans for the meeting. “This is an important opportunity for us to lay out in very frank terms our concerns."
The meeting will happen just days after Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin see their Japanese and South Korean counterparts in Tokyo and Seoul to reaffirm U.S. treaty alliances with those nations and less than a week after President Joe Biden holds a virtual summit with the leaders of India, Japan and Australia to discuss policy in the Indo-Pacific region.
“The meeting is an opportunity to address a wide range of issues, including ones where we have deep disagreements,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. “We’ll be frank in explaining how Beijing’s actions and behavior challenge security, prosperity and our concerns about challenges they pose to the security and values of the United States and our allies and partners.”
She added that the talks would also focus on areas, such as climate change, where the U.S. and China can cooperate. “We approach our relationship with the Chinese from a position of strength and in lockstep with our allies and partners,” Psaki said.
U.S.-China relations nose-dived while former President Donald Trump was in office, with his administration taking multiple actions against Beijing for its actions against Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang and in Tibet, its crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, aggressive actions toward Taiwan and staking claims to territory in the South China Sea.
Since moving into the White House, however, Biden has yet to make any significant overtures to China, signaling that many of Trump's policies toward the country will continue.
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