US, China call for stable ties in latest top-level talks

The United States and China remain at loggerheads on a host of issues including Taiwan, the self-ruling territory that Beijing claims. – EPA pic, September 19, 2023.

AMERICA’S top diplomat and China’s vice-president voiced hope yesterday for more stability in the often tense relationship as the rival powers held their second high-level talks in days.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meeting Vice-President Han Zheng in New York on the sidelines of the UN general assembly, said he believed in “face-to-face diplomacy” to deal with disagreements.

“I think it’s a good thing that we have this opportunity to build on the recent high-level engagements that our countries have had,” Blinken told Han as they opened their meeting at China’s mission to the United Nations.

The talks aim to “make sure that we’re maintaining open communications and demonstrate that we are responsibly managing the relationship between our two countries.”

Han said that the world’s two largest economies face “a lot of difficulties and challenges.”

“The world needs healthy and stable US-China relations, which benefit not only China and the US, but the whole world,” he said.

The meeting comes as the United States watches personnel changes in Beijing with growing intrigue.

Qin Gang, handpicked by President Xi Jinping as foreign minister, was abruptly replaced in July by the veteran policymaker Wang Yi.

US officials initially expected Wang to travel to the annual UN meeting, where he may have met briefly with President Joe Biden, but instead China sent Han, better known for his tenure as mayor of Shanghai than for diplomacy.

But Wang, who also is the Communist Party foreign policy director, held talks over the weekend with Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, in Malta.

The United States and China remain at loggerheads on a host of issues including Taiwan, the self-ruling democracy that Beijing claims and has not ruled out seizing by force.

China charges that the United States is stirring up Taiwanese independence supporters, and has repeatedly staged shows of force. 

The United States says it is seeking the preservation of the status quo and has stepped up support, including last month for the first time approving direct military aid to Taiwan, which traditionally buys its own weapons.

Blinken in the talks “underscored the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

Touching on nations with close ties with China, Blinken also discussed the “provocative actions” by North Korea and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Miller said.

China has also been outraged by US restrictions on high-end investment and exports of semiconductors from the United States, which says it is doing that to safeguard its own security.

But the tone has become comparatively civil. Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen both travelled this year to Beijing, resuming contact that had all but ceased during the pandemic.

The approach to China stands in contrast with the US refusal of most dialogue with Russia since the invasion of Ukraine, with Blinken and other senior US officials doubting the utility of talking to Moscow. – AFP, September 19, 2023.

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