U.S., China Top Envoys Discuss Meeting in Alaska, SCMP Says
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. and China are in talks for top diplomats to meet in Alaska, the South China Morning Post reported, as the world’s two largest economies seek to stabilize their strained relationship.
The proposed meeting in Anchorage would include U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi, the Hong Kong-based newspaper reported, citing a person briefed on the discussions. The talks could also include Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the paper said.
In response to a question about the report Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the agency didn’t “have any future travel or meetings to announce at this time.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian declined to comment about the SCMP’s report when asked about it at a regular briefing Wednesday in Beijing.
The meeting would represent the most high-level exchange between the two sides since President Joe Biden took office in January. Ties between the U.S. and China sank to their lowest level in decades under former President Donald Trump, with the nations trading sanctions and tariffs, expelling journalists and closing consulates.
Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are preparing to visit Japan and South Korea next week, Reuters has reported, as part of Biden’s efforts to demonstrate an early diplomatic focus on Asia. Trips over the Pacific Ocean by U.S. officials often involve stopovers in Alaska.
Chinese diplomats have said the onus to repair ties was on the U.S. after actions that “undermined the bilateral relationship severely” under Trump. “The U.S. has a bigger responsibility to take the initiative in terms of taking action,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao said on Monday.
The Biden team has avoided the tough and unpredictable rhetoric that Trump used against Beijing, but has also pledged a greater emphasis on developing an allied response to China. Biden is planning in the coming days to participate in the first state leaders’ meeting of a grouping of democracies known as the Quad, which also includes Australia, India and Japan. China has criticized the partnership as an effort to contain its influence.
Earlier this month Blinken described dealings with China as the defining test of the century. The U.S. approach to the Asian nation will be “competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be and adversarial when it must be,” he said.
The potential talks between the nations come as China prepares to unveil an overhaul of Hong Kong’s election system during an annual meeting of its legislature this week. The U.S. and U.K. have criticized the planned changes as a breach of China’s commitment to maintain the former British colony’s “high degree of autonomy.” Beijing is moving ahead despite those complaints, with its Foreign Ministry saying Hong Kong issues are an internal Chinese matter.
Yang and then-U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo met in June in Hawaii as ties deteriorated during the American presidential campaign. Those talks did little to prevent an escalation in tensions, as both countries continued to spar on everything from human rights to stock listings.
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