BEIJING — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed Taiwan and other thorny issues with senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in Beijing on the final day of a rare visit aimed at preventing friction between rival powers from escalating into conflict. .
Making the first visit to China by a US secretary of state in five years, Blinken spoke with Wang for about three hours during Monday’s meeting at the Diaoyutai state guesthouse in Beijing, according to sources. State Department officials.
Describing US-China relations as at an all-time low, Wang said the root cause was the US’s poor perception of China.
“We should adopt a responsible attitude towards the people, history and the world, and reverse the downward spiral of US-China relations,” Wang said during the meeting with Blinken, according to a statement released by the Chinese Ministry of Affairs. foreign.
A day earlier, Blinken had met with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang for more than 7.5 hours. Washington called the two rounds of talks “frank” and “constructive.”
All eyes will be on whether Blinken will also meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping later today, an engagement sources familiar with the matter said was expected but not yet confirmed by the State Department or Chinese officials.
Wang urged the United States to stop speculating on China’s threats, drop its “suppression” of China’s science and technology development, and refrain from interfering in its internal affairs, according to local media. Chinese state.
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 the Chinese reading.
The United States has long stuck to a policy of “strategic ambiguity” about whether it would respond militarily to an attack on Taiwan, something Beijing has refused to rule out.
Asked last year, US President Joe Biden said Washington would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, although aides later said his comments did not reflect a shift in policy from longstanding policy. “One China”.
US officials have stressed that the United States does not support Taiwan independence.
Talks between Blinken and Qin on Sunday had appeared to make little concrete progress on wide-ranging disputes, which included Taiwan, trade, human rights, stemming the flow of synthetic opioid fentanyl and its precursor chemicals from China, or on bringing together their divergent points of view. regarding the war in Ukraine.
Blinken emphasized “the need to reduce the risk of misperception and miscalculation” during his interviews with Qin.
Both sides stressed the importance of facilitating visits for their citizens and agreed to work to increase passenger flights, which boosted shares of Chinese airlines.
They also expressed a desire to stabilize bilateral ties despite what a US official called “deep” differences, and agreed that Qin would travel to Washington to continue the conversation, although no date was announced. .
“It will be a process of sustained diplomacy,” a senior State Department official said Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Blinken’s trip, which was postponed in February after a suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over US airspace, is being watched closely around the world as a further deterioration in ties between the world’s two largest economies could have global implications for financial markets, trade practices and routes, and supply chains.
While in Beijing, Blinken was also expected to meet with American business people operating in the healthcare, automotive and entertainment industries to learn more about the business climate in China.
Taiwan “the main interest”
The Chinese reading of Sunday’s meetings called them constructive but made clear that Taiwan is the bigger, and potentially dangerous, issue.
“Qin Gang stressed that the Taiwan issue is at the core of China’s core interests, the most important issue in China-US relations and the most significant risk,” Qin told Chinese state media.
Taiwanese Prime Minister Chen Chien-jen told reporters in central Taiwan, “For this high-level interaction between China and the United States, Taiwan is grasping the relevant details closely.”
Beijing’s reluctance to engage in regular military talks with Washington is particularly alarming for China’s neighbors.
US officials have played down 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.
It could also pave the way for talks between Xi and Biden at multilateral summits later in the year.
Biden and Xi held the long-awaited first face-to-face talks on the sidelines of a Group of 20 major economies summit in November on the Indonesian island of Bali, engaging in direct talks on Taiwan and North Korea but also engaging more frequently in communication, although ties have since deteriorated.
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