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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Blinken urges open lines of communication with China

Relations between the world's two largest economies have tanked in recent years over Taiwan, trade and human rights, among a litany of other issues.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Wednesday for open lines of communication as he spoke with China’s foreign minister, ahead of planned face-to-face discussions in Beijing.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have tanked in recent years over Taiwan, trade and human rights, among a litany of other issues.

Blinken is due in Beijing on Sunday for talks aimed at calming nerves, after a previous planned visit was abruptly cancelled in February.

In his call with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, which took place Wednesday Beijing time, Blinken said they “discussed ongoing efforts to maintain open channels of communication as well as bilateral and global issues”.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller also said Blinken had stressed “the importance of maintaining open lines of communication to responsibly manage the US-PRC relationship to avoid miscalculation and conflict”.

Blinken “made clear the US would continue to use diplomatic engagements to raise areas of concern as well as areas of potential cooperation”, Miller said.

A Beijing readout of the call struck a more confrontational tone, reporting that Qin had warned that relations between the two countries had faced “new difficulties and challenges” since the beginning of the year.

“It’s clear who is responsible,” Qin said, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.

“China has always viewed and managed China-US relations in accordance with the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation put forward by President Xi Jinping,” he added.

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– Blinken in Beijing –

Blinken’s planned visit to Beijing would be the first trip by a top US diplomat to China since his predecessor Mike Pompeo in October 2018.

Presidents Joe Biden and Xi met in Bali in November and agreed to try to prevent tensions from soaring out of control, including by sending Blinken to Beijing.

But Blinken abruptly cancelled a trip scheduled in early February after the United States said it detected — and later shot down — a Chinese surveillance balloon flying over the US mainland.

The two sides have more recently looked again to keep tensions in check, including with an extensive, closed-door meeting between Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, and senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in Vienna last month.

Read more: Blinken, Saudi Crown Prince meet in Jeddah

Biden has sought limited areas for cooperation with China, such as climate change, in contrast with the more fully adversarial position adopted at the end of the administration of his predecessor Donald Trump.

But two countries remain at deeply at odds over many issues.

The White House last week accused China of operating an intelligence unit in Cuba for years and upgraded it in 2019 in an effort to enhance its presence on the Caribbean island.

A base in Cuba, which lies 90 miles (150 kilometers) off Florida’s southern tip, would be viewed in Washington as a direct challenge to the continental United States.

Asked about the base at a regular press briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said he was “unaware of the situation” before criticising US policy on Cuba.