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Business News/ News / World/  Antony Blinken arrives in Beijing; becomes 1st US State Secretary to visit in 5 years

Antony Blinken arrives in Beijing; becomes 1st US State Secretary to visit in 5 years

Antony Blinken is on a two-day visit to China to stabilize the relationship between the two countries amid rising tensions. During his visit, Blinken is expected to hold high-stakes meetings with Chinese officials, including Foreign Minister Qin Gang and President Xi Jinping.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (Image: AFP)Premium
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (Image: AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has arrived in Beijing on a high-stakes diplomatic mission to try to cool exploding US-China tensions that have set many around the world on edge. Blinken has also become the 1st US Secretary of State in five years to make a visit to Beijing, The Washington Post has reported.

During his two-day visit to China, Blinken is expected to hold a high-stakes meeting aimed at stabilizing a relationship under historic stress.

His has also come after last time in February he postponed plans to visit Beijing after the shootdown of a Chinese surveillance balloon over the US.

During his visit, Blinken has plans to meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Sunday, top diplomat Wang Yi, and possibly President Xi Jinping on Monday, according to US officials. According to the State Department's statement, Secretary Blinken will also meet with senior PRC officials where he will discuss the importance of maintaining open lines of communication to responsibly manage the US-PRC relationship. Moreover, he will also raise bilateral issues of concern, global and regional matters, and potential cooperation on shared transnational challenges.

Biden and Xi agreed to Blinken’s trip early at a meeting last year in Bali. It came within a day of happening in February but was delayed by the diplomatic and political tumult brought on by the discovery of what the US says was a Chinese spy balloon flying across the United States that was shot down.

The list of disagreements between the two countries is long from ranging from trade with Taiwan to human rights conditions in China to Hong Kong, as well as the Chinese military assertiveness in the South China Sea to Russia's war in Ukraine.

Shortly before leaving, Blinken emphasized the importance of the US and China establishing and maintaining better lines of communication. The US wants to make sure “that the competition we have with China doesn’t veer into conflict" due to avoidable misunderstandings, he told reporters.

Biden and Xi had made commitments to improve communications “precisely so that we can make sure we are communicating as clearly as possible to avoid possible misunderstandings and miscommunications," Blinken said Friday.

Xi offered a hint of a possible willingness to reduce tensions, saying in a meeting with Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates on Friday that the United States and China can cooperate to “benefit our two countries."

“I believe that the foundation of Sino-U.S. relations lies in the people," Xi said to Gates. “Under the current world situation, we can carry out various activities that benefit our two countries, the people of our countries, and the entire human race." "We have always placed our hopes on the American people, and hoped for continued friendship between the peoples of the two countries," Xi added.

Ahead of his visit to China, Blinken also spoke separately with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, emphasizing the importance of “sustained... trilateral cooperation."

The conversations also came as North Korea has stepped up missile launches in the past year, and Tokyo contends with growing pressure from Chinese vessels around islands contested with Beijing.

Blinken on Friday reassured Foreign Minister Park Jin of the United States' "ironclad commitment" to South Korea's defense, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement Saturday.

"The Secretary and the Foreign Minister condemned the DPRK's continued unlawful ballistic missile launches and noted the need for the PRC to use its influence to encourage Pyongyang to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy," he added, using acronyms for North Korea and China's official names.

President Joe Biden also said that he hopes to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping within the next few months and suggested China’s leaders weren’t aware of details surrounding an alleged spy balloon the US shot down in February. While speaking to reporters, he said, “China has some legitimate difficulties unrelated to the United States." 

“I think one of the things that balloon caused was not so much that it got shot down. But I don’t think that the leadership knew where it was or knew what was in it and knew what was going on."

“I think it was more embarrassing than it was intentional," he said before boarding Air Force One to Philadelphia for a speech to kick off his 2024 reelection campaign. Biden said he’s “hoping that over the next several months I’ll be meeting Xi again."

Since the cancellation of Blinken's trip in February, there have been some high-level engagements. CIA chief William Burns traveled to China in May, while China’s commerce minister traveled to the US and Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with Yi in Vienna in May. But those have been punctuated by bursts of angry rhetoric from both sides over the Taiwan Strait, their broader intentions in the Indo-Pacific, China’s refusal to condemn Russia for its war against Ukraine, and U.S. allegations from Washington that Beijing is attempting to boost its worldwide surveillance capabilities, including in Cuba.

And, earlier this month, China’s defense minister rebuffed a request from U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for a meeting on the sidelines of a security symposium in Singapore, a sign of continuing discontent.

(With inputs from Associated Press)

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Published: 18 Jun 2023, 07:28 AM IST
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