Blinken to meet China’s Wang Yi in Jakarta

July 13, 2023 - 2:24 PM
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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a meeting of the North Atlantic Council during a NATO leaders summit in Vilnius, Lithuania July 12, 2023. (Reuters/Ints Kalnins)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi on Thursday as officials gather in Indonesia for ASEAN meetings, the State Department said in announcing the latest in series of interactions between the rival superpowers.

Wang is representing China at the Jakarta meetings involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and partner countries after Beijing said Foreign Minister Qin Gang would not attend due to health reasons.

Blinken met Qin and Wang in Beijing last month, marking the first visit to China by a U.S. secretary of state in five years. It was aimed at easing the intense rivalry between the superpowers, which are also the world’s two largest economies

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visited China earlier this month and climate envoy John Kerry is to visit next week.

Wang, who is the foreign policy chief for the Chinese Communist Party, ranks above Qin, who as the foreign minister is the government’s foreign policy chief.

China’s ambassador to the United States held a rare meeting at the Pentagon on Wednesday with the top U.S. defense official for Asia, the Pentagon said, in talks that followed U.S. criticism of Chinese reluctance to engage in military communications.

Analysts see the meetings as part of efforts to clear the way for a summit between President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping later in the year, but tensions remain high.

Blinken’s last meeting with Wang Yi in Beijing appeared to be the thorniest of his visit, with Wang telling him the “root cause” of their discord was “U.S. misperceptions of China” and its “misguided China polices”, according to a Chinese readout.

While Washington is seeking to put a floor under relations, which Beijing has described as at their lowest point since the establishment of diplomatic ties, the two sides remain at odds over a range of trade, security and geopolitical issues.

On Taiwan, the democratic island which Beijing claims as its own, Wang’s tone at his last meeting with Blinken was particularly pointed.

“China has no room for compromise or concessions,” said Wang, according to the readout.

The U.S. is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to protect itself but has long stuck to a policy of “strategic ambiguity” over whether it would respond militarily to an attack on Taiwan, which Beijing has refused to rule out.

Last week, the senior State Department official for East Asia, Daniel Kritenbrink, said Blinken would work with ASEAN members in Jakarta in response to “an upward trend of unhelpful and coercive and irresponsible Chinese actions.”

—Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Simon Lewis; Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Michael Perry and Raju Gopalakrishnan