WASHINGTON (US) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will have a meeting with top Chinese officials on March 18 in Alaska, the White House said on Wednesday, the first high-level contact in person, between the two countries, under the Biden administration.
The meeting, taking place after Blinken returns from his first overseas trip to Japan and South Korea, who have been prominent US allies. This will come amid a time, when there has been shaping up of a major US diplomatic push to make way for solid alliances in Asia and Europe to counter China.
Yang Jiechi, and State Councillor Wang Yi says National security adviser Jake Sullivan will join the meeting in Anchorage with China’s top diplomat, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. It was added that the administration would look into its relations with China “in lockstep” with its partners.
Psaki told a news briefing, “It was important to us that this administration’s first meeting with Chinese officials be held on American soil, and occur after we have met and consulted closely with partners and allies in both Asia and Europe.”
She said the meeting would be “an opportunity to address a wide range of issues, including ones where we have deep disagreements.”
President Joe Biden’s administration has vowed to review aspects of US policies toward China, as the world’s two largest economies make their way out from relations that went cold, sinking to their lowest depths in years during Donald Trump’s presidency.
On Wednesday, Blinken signaled next week’s meeting would not be a drift from regular senior-level dialogues, which has been witnessed under past US administrations. The earlier discussions invited wide criticism in Washington for yielding little progress, with regard to US grievances with Beijing.
“There’s no intent at this point for a series of follow-on engagements. Those engagements, if they are to follow, really have to be based on the proposition that we’re seeing tangible progress and tangible outcomes on the issues of concern to us with China,” Blinken said.
Blinken also said that if China holds onto its statement that it is not violating the human rights of Uighur Muslims in its Xinjiang region, then access to the area should be provided by them.
The talks will follow the visit by Blinken and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to Japan and South Korea next week, as well as an online summit on Friday between Biden and the leaders of Japan, India and Australia.
That will be the first leader-level meeting of the four-country group called the Quad, seen as part of US efforts to strengthen its diplomacy in Asia to strike a balance between China’s growing military and economic power.
Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the timing of the meeting drives an important message to Beijing that US alliances are strong.
Discussions are likely to delve into China’s policies toward Hong Kong, its pressure on Taiwan, its treatment of Uighurs, and what, according to Washington, sees as coercion exerted economically against Australia, she said.
“If the Chinese repeat their messages contained in recent speeches that the US is to blame for the problems in the US-China relationship and therefore the ball is in the US court, then nothing positive will come of this meeting,” Glaser said.