Secretary Blinken heads to China on a salvage mission

Washington: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to China this weekend as part of the Biden administration’s push to repair deteriorating ties between Washington and Beijing and keep lines of communication open, the State Department said Wednesday.

Blinken will be the most senior U.S. official to visit China since President Joe Biden took office. His visit had initially been planned for early this year but was postponed indefinitely after the discovery and shoot down of what the U.S. said was a Chinese spy balloon over the United States.

Since then, however, there have been lower-level engagements between the U.S. and China despite ongoing hostility and recriminations over both sides’ actions in the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea, China’s refusal to condemn Russia for its war against Ukraine, and allegations from Washington that Beijing is attempting to boost its worldwide surveillance capabilities, including in Cuba.

The State Department said Blinken had spoken with his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Qin Gang, on Tuesday night to confirm his trip, which will begin 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 the U.S.-PRC relationship,” the department said, using the acronym for the People’s Republic of China. “He will also raise bilateral issues of concern, global and regional matters, and potential cooperation on shared transnational challenges.”

After his meetings in Beijing, Blinken will travel to London to attend a Ukraine reconstruction conference on June 21, the State Department said.

“We’re clear-eyed about the PRC,” said Kurt Campbell, the top Asia expert at the National Security Council. “We know efforts to shape or reform China over several decades have failed and we expect China to be around and to be a major player on the world stage for the rest of our lifetimes.”

In its readout of the Blinken-Qin phone call, China’s foreign ministry said Qin urged the United States to respect “China’s core concerns” such as the issue of Taiwan’s self-rule, “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, and stop harming China’s sovereignty, security and development interests in the name of competition.”

Image courtesy of ToI

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