Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit China this weekend as President Joe Biden’s administration tries to move past the spy balloon fallout and mend relations with Beijing.
Blinken will be the most senior US official to visit China since Biden took office.
He was originally scheduled to surrender earlier this year, but that was canceled after a Chinese spy balloon floating over the United States was discovered and shot down.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit China this weekend
The State Department said Blinken spoke Tuesday night with his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Qin Gang, to confirm his trip, which begins on Sunday.
“While in Beijing, Secretary Blinken will meet with senior PRC officials where he will discuss the importance of maintaining open lines of communication to responsibly manage U.S.-PRC relations,” said the department, using the acronym People’s Republic of China. . “It will also raise bilateral issues of concern, global and regional issues and potential cooperation on common transnational challenges.”
Blinken, who will be the first secretary of state to visit China since 2018, plans to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Qin Gang, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday.
He could possibly meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday, according to the State Department.
Tensions erupted between Beijing and Washington in February with the discovery of the balloon over US airspace hovering over sensitive military sites as it crossed the country.
The balloon entered US airspace on January 28 and was shot down on February 4 after flying over US nuclear missile sites, including Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.
Biden ordered it shot down, over the Atlantic, off South Carolina.
China initially claimed the balloon was a civilian weather balloon that had veered off course. The Foreign Office condemned his shooting as an “overreaction”.
In the aftermath, relations between the two nations frayed and were mostly between low-level officials.
A Chinese spy balloon drifts towards the ocean after being shot down off Surfside Beach, South Carolina
President Joe Biden shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping as they meet on the sidelines of the G20 leaders’ summit in Bali, Indonesia in November – this is the last time the men spoke
The journey of the Chinese spy balloon
Biden said he would speak to Chinese President Xi Jinping “soon” but no date was given. The pair last spoke in November at a G20 summit in Bali.
It was at the Bali summit that Biden agreed to a visit to Blinken.
There are other points of tension between the two nations, including US concern over China’s actions in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea; Beijing’s refusal to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine; and Washington’s allegations that China is stepping up its espionage game, including in Cuba.
Over the weekend, the United States confirmed the existence of a Chinese spy base in Cuba, located about 90 miles from the United States, since 2019.
Blinken said oversight rests with the Trump administration.
“When this administration took office in January 2021, we were made aware of a number of sensitive efforts by Beijing around the world to expand their logistics base collection infrastructure overseas to enable them to project and to keep military power at a greater distance,” Blinken said.
“They were considering a number of sites around the world for this expansion, including intelligence gathering facilities for intelligence gathering in Cuba. In fact, based on the information we have, the PRC upgraded its intelligence gathering facilities in Cuba in 2019.’
The United States is also concerned about human rights in China, particularly the treatment of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities.
Jinping, for his part, has criticized what he calls the “complete containment and suppression” of his country by the United States, after Washington last year restricted China’s access to valuable technology. such as microchips.