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China’s Wang Yi to pay rare visit to US as two countries try to repair ties

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will travel to the United States later this week as part of an ongoing effort to repair the two countries’ strained ties amid growing geopolitical crises.

Wang will visit Washington from October 26-28 and meet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan, officials said, after Blinken and other top officials travelled to Beijing in June.

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The US is keen to ensure disagreements between Washington and Beijing do not veer into conflict and that they can work together on issues of mutual concern. Other US politicians have travelled to China since Blinken’s visit, with California Governor Gavin Newsom currently in the country to discuss climate change.

“We continue to believe that direct face-to-face diplomacy is the best way to raise challenging issues, address misperception and miscommunication and explore working with the Chinese where our interests intersect,” one official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, told the Reuters news agency.

The meetings are likely to cover a range of issues, including the Israel-Hamas conflict, the Ukraine war and the escalating tension in the South China Sea, senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press news agency.

Washington is sending military aid to Israel and Ukraine, while Beijing has grown closer to Russia since the Ukraine war began in February 2022, and has called for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

A second official said the US would “push the Chinese to take a more constructive approach on both”.

Hopes for Xi-Biden meeting

Wang held phone calls with the foreign ministers of Israel and the Palestinian Authority on Monday and expressed sadness at the civilian suffering as a result of the conflict. He reiterated China’s calls for a ceasefire and backing for a two-state solution.

Washington has placed importance on China’s ability to influence Iran.

Blinken, during his whirlwind trip last week to the Middle East, held a phone call with Wang asking him to use Beijing’s influence in the region to ensure the conflict does not widen.

Wang’s trip takes place about three weeks ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco, where there are expectations that President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping might meet.

The US officials did not confirm the leaders’ meeting, nor did they say if Wang’s visit would prepare for such a meeting. Instead, Wang’s trip was described as reciprocal to Blinken’s visit to Beijing.

Beijing has yet to confirm if Xi will travel to San Francisco for the annual APEC summit.

US-China relations have been deteriorating since 2018 over issues such as trade, the situation in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, the militarisation of the South China Sea, the rising pressure on the self-governed island of Taiwan and the origins of COVID-19.

Biden and Xi last met in November 2022 on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meeting in Indonesia. At that time, they agreed to resume talks, set up work groups on specific issues and expand person-to-person exchanges.

US officials said territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas were also likely to be on the agenda, saying that Washington was deeply concerned by China’s “destabilising and dangerous actions” in the South China Sea.

The Philippines, a key US ally, this week accused Chinese coastguard vessels of “intentionally” colliding with its vessels on a resupply mission at Second Thomas Shoal, in the most serious incident this year. Beijing claims the shoal as its territory although it lies within Manila’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Re-establishing military-to-military ties with China also remains a top concern for the US, the officials said, adding that this meant sustained communications throughout the ranks.

Defence Minister Li Shangfu, who has not been seen in public for nearly two months amid a corruption probe, had snubbed US calls to meet. He had been targeted with US sanctions in 2018 over Russian weapons purchases.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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