U.S., China top diplomats agree to stabilize ties despite differences

The top diplomats of the United States and China agreed Thursday on the need to promote dialogue, regardless of many disagreements, to help reduce misunderstanding and stabilize bilateral relations.

Wang Yi, the most senior foreign policy official in China’s Communist Party, said the two countries “share important common interests and challenges that we need to address together” as he began a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington.

About three weeks ahead of a potential summit between the presidents of the countries, Wang said by resuming and deepening dialogue, they can pursue cooperation that will benefit both sides and bring relations back “as soon as possible to the track of healthy, stable and sustainable development.”

After Wang concluded, Blinken said he agreed with his Chinese counterpart’s remarks in the presence of the media.

Their discussions, set to continue through Friday, could pave the way for the first face-to-face talks in a year between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Following their meeting and working dinner on Thursday, the State Department said the two discussed “a range of bilateral, regional and global issues,” without elaborating.

It also said Blinken reiterated that “the United States will continue to stand up for our interests and values and those of our allies and partners,” adding he expressed condolences on the death of former Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Despite long-running bilateral tensions over numerous issues, Biden and senior U.S. officials have repeatedly said that in-person conversations with their Chinese counterparts are indispensable for minimizing the risk of miscalculation.

Biden has referred to the possibility of a one-on-one meeting with Xi in mid-November in San Francisco, where he will host this year’s leaders’ gathering of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation grouping.

On Wednesday, while meeting the press with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Biden said the United States will “compete with China” based on international rules, but “I’m not looking for conflict.”

Wang arrived in the U.S. capital on Thursday for a three-day visit. After wrapping up talks with Blinken on Friday, he is due to meet separately with Biden’s top national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and possibly also the U.S. president.

Wang has been doubling as foreign minister since late July after his predecessor Qin Gang was removed from the post without explanation from Beijing.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Thursday the United States is prepared to address areas of concern it continues to have with some of China’s behavior, “particularly in the South China Sea.”

China claims the vast majority of the strategically important South China Sea, where it is locked in territorial disputes with smaller countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam.

On Sunday, in the latest confrontation in the disputed sea, the Philippines accused China of “dangerous, irresponsible and illegal” actions that resulted in two collisions involving their vessels.

Kirby also said he has “no doubt” the war between Israel and the militant group Hamas will be part of the agenda, suggesting that the United States will encourage China to be helpful in preventing the conflict from escalating.

U.S. officials have said other issues expected to be on the agenda include coordination toward reopening military-to-military communication channels, the situation around the Taiwan Strait where China has intensified its military pressure, as well as North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs, and Russia’s war on Ukraine.

The United States and China have been increasing high-level contacts since Blinken’s trip to Beijing in June, during which he also met with Xi.

Xi had a meeting with California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday in Beijing, telling him that China and the United States have “great potential for cooperation” in areas such as climate change.

Newsom extended a friendly invite to California for the APEC summit. China has yet to confirm whether Xi will take part in the summit of 21 member economies, also including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore and Thailand.

By Muhammad Hussain