U.S., Chinese foreign ministers hold first talks since October

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met on Saturday for the first in-person talks since October after attending a G20 summit where the top US diplomat led efforts to put pressure on Russia over its war in Ukraine.

US officials said Blinken’s meeting with Wang in Bali, Indonesia, which includes a morning talks session and a working lunch, is aimed at keeping the US’ difficult relationship with China stable and preventing it from inadvertently tip into a conflict.

“There is no substitute for face-to-face … diplomacy, and in a relationship as complex and consequential as that between the United States and China, there is a lot to be said for it,” Blinken told reporters at the start of the meeting.

“We look forward to a productive and constructive conversation,” he said.

Blinken is expected to repeat warnings to China not to support Russia’s war in Ukraine and the two sides will address contentious issues such as Taiwan, China’s extensive claims to the South China Sea, its expansion of influence in the Pacific, human rights and trade tariffs.

However, both parties share an interest in maintaining stable relations and Blinken and US officials say President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to speak again in the coming weeks, which Saturday’s meeting is expected to address. .

“China and the United States are two big countries, so it is necessary for the two countries to maintain normal exchanges,” Wang told reporters.

“At the same time, we need to talk together to make sure this relationship will keep moving forward on the right track,” Wang said.

Daniel Russel, a senior U.S. diplomat for East Asia under former President Barack Obama who maintains close contact with Biden administration officials, said he believed a key purpose of the meeting would be to explore the possibility of a face-to-face meeting between Biden and Xi, their first as leaders, possibly on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Bali in November.

The United States calls China its main strategic rival and fears that it will one day try to take control of the democratic self-governing island of Taiwan, just as Russia attacked Ukraine.

The top US diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Kritenbrink, said on Tuesday he expected a “frank” exchange with Wang and said it would be another opportunity “to convey our expectations of what we expect China to do and not to do in context.” from Ukraine.

Shortly before Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Beijing and Moscow announced a “limitless” partnership. But US officials said they had not seen China evade tough US sanctions on Russia or supply it with military equipment.

However, China refused to condemn Russia’s actions and criticized the sweeping sanctions.

US officials have warned of consequences, including sanctions, if China begins offering material support to Russia’s war effort, which it calls a ‘special military operation’ to downgrade the military Ukraine, although Kyiv counters that it is an imperial-style land grab.

Despite their strategic rivalry, the world’s two largest economies remain major trading partners and Biden is considering removing tariffs on a range of Chinese goods to curb soaring US inflation ahead of November’s midterm elections. , with an emphasis on congressional oversight.

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