Blinken, Wang tackles difficult issues as Xi meets looms

BEIJING, June 19 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken discussed Taiwan and other thorny issues with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in Beijing on the final day of a rare visit aimed at de-escalating friction between the rival powers.

Blinken, the first visit to China by a US secretary of state in five years, spoke with Wang for about three hours during a meeting Monday at the Deoyudai State Guesthouse in Beijing, State Department officials said.

Describing the US-China relationship as being at a low point, Wang said the root cause is America’s wrong perception of China.

“We must take a responsible approach to people, history and the world, and reverse the downward spiral of US-China relations,” Wang said during the meeting with Blinken, in a statement released by China’s Foreign Ministry.

A day earlier, Blinken met with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang for more than 7-1/2 hours. Washington described the two sets of talks as “sincere” and “constructive”.

It remains to be seen whether Blinken will later meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, engagement sources familiar with the matter expect, but has not yet been confirmed by the State Department or Chinese officials.

Wang urged the United States to stop speculating about China’s threats, abandon “suppressing” China’s scientific and technological development and refrain from interfering in its internal affairs, Chinese state media reported.

On the issue of Taiwan, the democratic island Beijing claims as its own, Wang said, “China has no room for compromise or concessions,” according to a Chinese-read report.

The US has long adhered to a policy of “strategic ambiguity” over whether to respond militarily to an attack on Taiwan, which Beijing has refused to rule out.

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When US President Joe Biden was asked last year, he said Washington would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, although aides later said his comments did not reflect a policy departure from the longstanding “one China” policy.

US officials have underlined that the US does not support Taiwan independence.

Talks between Blinken and Qin on Sunday produced little tangible progress on a wide range of disputes over Taiwan, trade, human rights, banning the synthetic opioid fentanyl and its precursor chemicals from China, or reining in their divergent views. Regarding the war in Ukraine.

Blinken stressed the need to “minimize the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation” in his talks with Qin.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken meets with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang at the Daoyudai State Guesthouse on June 18, 2023 in Beijing, China. REUTERS/Leah Millis/Pool

Both sides stressed the importance of facilitating the arrival of their citizens, and agreed to increase passenger flights, which boosted Chinese airline stocks.

They also expressed a desire to stabilize bilateral ties, despite what one US official said were their “deep” differences, and agreed that Qin would visit Washington to continue talks, although no date was announced.

“It will be a process of protracted diplomacy,” a senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Sunday.

Blinken’s trip was postponed in February after a suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over US airspace, closely watched around the world as relations between the world’s two largest economies further sour, with potential global implications for financial markets, trade practices and routes and supply chains.

While in Beijing, Blingen is expected to meet with American businessmen active in the healthcare, automobile and entertainment industries to learn more about China’s business environment.

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Taiwan “core interest”

A Chinese reading of Sunday’s meetings described them as constructive, but made it clear that Taiwan was the most important issue and dangerous.

“Qin Gang pointed out that the Taiwan issue is the core of China’s core interests, the most important issue and the most important danger in Sino-US relations,” Chinese state media quoted Qin as saying.

Taiwanese Premier Chen Hsien-jen told reporters in central Taiwan: “For this high-level interaction between China and the United States, Taiwan closely understands the relevant details.”

Beijing’s reluctance to engage in regular military-to-military talks with Washington is particularly worrying for China’s neighbors.

U.S. officials are downplaying the prospect of a major breakthrough in the talks, but they and analysts expect Blinken’s visit to pave the way for more bilateral meetings in the coming months, including possible trips by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

This could set the stage for talks between Xi and Biden at a multilateral summit later in the year.

Biden and Xi held their long-awaited first face-to-face talks on the sidelines of a summit of the Group of 20 major economies on the Indonesian island of Bali in November, engaging in blunt talk on Taiwan and North Korea but promising more often. contact, but since then relations have deteriorated.

Humeyra Pamuk reports in Beijing; Jason Xue, Sophie Yu, Yew Lun Tian, ​​Dominique Patton in Shanghai, Joe Cash in Beijing, Jeanny Kao and Ben Blanchard in Taipei, writing: Humeyra Pamuk and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Thomson Reuters

Humeyra Pamuk is a senior foreign policy correspondent in Washington, DC. He covers the US State Department and travels regularly with the US Secretary of State. During his 20 years with Reuters, he held posts in London, Dubai, Cairo and Turkey, covering everything from the Arab Spring and Syria’s civil war to multiple Turkish elections and the Kurdish insurgency in the southeast. In 2017, he won the Knight-Backhatt Fellowship Program at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. He holds a BA in International Relations and an MA in European Union Studies.

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