‘A real conversation’: Blinken has ‘constructive’ talks in China

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has held “candid, substantive, and constructive” talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang in Beijing, the US Department of State says.

Sunday’s talks marked the start of the highest-level trip by a US official to China in nearly five years as the rival superpowers aim to stabilise strained relations.

“The secretary emphasised the importance of diplomacy and maintaining open channels of communication across the full range of issues to reduce the risk of misperception and miscalculation,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

Qin told Blinken that China is committed to building a “stable, predictable, and constructive” relationship with the United States, state media reported.

He also made clear China’s concerns regarding its core interests – including the Taiwan issue, describing it as the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own.

They are also at odds over issues ranging from trade, US efforts to hold back China’s semiconductor industry and Beijing’s human rights track record.

Particularly alarming for China’s neighbours has been its reluctance to engage in regular military-to-military talks with Washington, despite repeated attempts for dialogue by the US.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday before he left for Beijing, Blinken said his trip had three main objectives: Setting up mechanisms for crisis management, advancing the US’s and its allies’ interests as well as speaking directly about related concerns, and exploring areas of potential cooperation.

“If we want to make sure, as we do, that the competition that we have with China doesn’t veer into conflict, the place you start is with communicating,” Blinken said.

The US has also been keeping its allies close, with Blinken speaking by telephone with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea during his 20-hour journey across the Pacific.

Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, also travelled to Tokyo for separate three-way meetings involving Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.

In recent months, the US has reached deals on troop deployments in southern Japan and the northern Philippines, both strategically close to Taiwan.

Blinken is the first top US diplomat to visit Beijing since a stop in 2018 by his predecessor Mike Pompeo, who later championed no-holds-barred confrontation with China in the final years of Donald Trump’s US presidency.

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