U.S., China clash in 1st high-level meeting since Biden took office

Mar 19 , 2021. 1 minute ago – 09:45 KYODO NEWS

WASHINGTON – The United States and China on Thursday held their first high-level in-person meeting since the change of administration in Washington, with tense exchanges reported from the outset of the talks over each other’s behavior and policies.

“We will…discuss our deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang (against ethnic minorities), Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyberattacks on the United States, economic coercion of our allies,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Alaska, Reuters said.

“Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability,” Blinken was also quoted as saying.

Yang fought back, slamming what he views as the United States’ struggling democracy and poor treatment of minorities, according to Reuters.

“The United States uses its military force and financial hegemony to carry out long-arm jurisdiction and suppress other countries,” he reportedly said.

The sparring reflected the current status of relations between the world’s two largest economies, casting a shadow on what is expected to be a two-day session.

China has expressed its desire to put bilateral relations “back on the right track” after the four years under Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump resulted in a bruising trade war and confrontation on various fronts including over its assertiveness in disputed waters and toward Taiwan, crackdown on Hong Kong and technology issues.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the Chinese officials plan to urge their U.S. counterparts to drop the sanctions and restrictions that the Trump administration imposed on Chinese entities, such as Huawei Technologies Co., and individuals.

The Chinese side also plans to propose re-establishing regular high-level meetings between the two countries and scheduling a virtual summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Biden in April during a global conference on climate change, the newspaper said.

But it is unclear whether the two countries can come up with any agreements, with a senior U.S. administration official denying prospects of releasing a joint statement after the talks.

The two countries have already differed as to how they view the nature of the meeting, with China calling the event a “strategic dialogue,” while the United States has emphasized that it is “not the resumption of a particular dialogue mechanism or the beginning of a dialogue process.”

The gathering follows a flurry of diplomatic activity between the United States and countries in the Indo-Pacific that share concerns over China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

Biden convened an online meeting last Friday with leaders of Japan, Australia and India in a grouping called the Quad, which rolled out a pledge to respond to global challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic and strive for a region that is free, open and unconstrained by “coercion.”

Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin then flew to Japan and South Korea on a trip intended to signal U.S. determination to work with its closest allies in Asia.

The Biden administration has said that dealing with China will be “the biggest geopolitical test” of this century, singling out the Asian giant as having the power to pose serious challenges to the open international system the United States is defending.

But it has also signaled its readiness to explore areas of cooperation when it is in America’s interest to do so, such as on climate change.

According to Reuters, Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who also attended the meeting in Alaska, told the Chinese officials that the United States did not seek conflict with China, but would stand up for principles and friends.

Topics of discussion during the meeting in Anchorage are also expected to include North Korea’s denuclearization, with the United States expecting China, which has been Pyongyang’s primary diplomatic backer, to play a key role in the issue.

Blinken has also said he intends to convey to Chinese officials concerns about Beijing’s assertiveness in waters around the Japanese-administered, China-claimed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.