Top Chinese, US diplomats hold phone call

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang held a telephone call Wednesday, the highest-level talks in a recent flurry of diplomatic activity between the countries.

Tensions have risen sharply between the world’s two largest economies in recent years, especially over Taiwan, the self-governing democracy that Beijing claims and has not ruled out seizing by force.

Blinken is due in Beijing on Sunday for talks aimed at calming nerves, after a previous planned visit was abruptly cancelled in February.

But in their call, which took place Wednesday Beijing time, Qin warned that relations between the two countries had faced “new difficulties and challenges” since the beginning of the year.

“It’s clear who is responsible,” Qin said, according to a Chinese foreign ministry readout of a phone call between the two high-ranking diplomats.”China has always viewed and managed China-US relations in accordance with the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation put forward by President Xi Jinping,” he added.

“Spoke tonight with PRC State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang by phone,” Blinken said on Twitter. “Discussed ongoing efforts to maintain open channels of communication as well as bilateral and global issues.”

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Blinken had stressed “the importance of maintaining open lines of communication to responsibly manage the US-PRC relationship to avoid miscalculation and conflict” with Qin.

Blinken also “made clear the US would continue to use diplomatic engagements to raise areas of concern as well as areas of potential cooperation”, Miller said.

Blinken is expected to arrive in Beijing on June 18, the first trip by a top US diplomat to China since his predecessor Mike Pompeo in October 2018, US officials have said on condition of anonymity.

Presidents Joe Biden and Xi met in Bali in November and agreed to try to prevent already high tensions from soaring out of control, including by sending Blinken to Beijing.But Blinken abruptly cancelled a trip scheduled in early February after the United States said it detected — and later shot down — a Chinese surveillance balloon flying over the US mainland, drawing fury from US lawmakers and denials by Beijing.

The two sides have more recently looked again to keep tensions in check including with an extensive, closed-door meeting between Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, and senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in Vienna last month.

And Biden has sought limited areas for cooperation with China, such as climate change, in contrast with the more fully adversarial position adopted at the end of the administration of his predecessor Donald Trump.


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