UNITED STATES NEWS

Blinken to travel to China next week, carrying out trip postponed after spy balloon incident

Jun 9, 2023, 7:58 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken is planning to travel to China this month as the Biden administration pushes to improve badly deteriorated ties with the Chinese.

U.S. officials say Blinken expects to be in Beijing on June 18 for meetings with senior Chinese officials, including with Foreign Minister Qin Gang and possibly President Xi Jinping.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because neither the State Department nor the Chinese foreign ministry have yet confirmed the trip.

The visit, which was agreed between Xi and President Joe Biden last year at a meeting in Bali, had been initially planned for February but was postponed after the spy balloon incident in which the U.S. shot down a Chinese aircraft that Beijing insisted was a weather balloon that had strayed off course.

Since then, there have been contacts between the U.S. and China, but they have been rare as tensions have risen over China’s conduct in the South China Sea, aggressive actions toward Taiwan and support for Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Last week, China’s defense minister rebuffed a request from U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for a meeting on the sidelines of a security symposium in Singapore.

However, China’s commerce minister traveled to the U.S. last month and Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, in Vienna in early May.

The White House said at the time that the meeting “was part of ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication and responsibly manage competition. The two sides agreed to maintain this important strategic channel of communication to advance these objectives.”

More recently, the top U.S. diplomat for the Asia-Pacific region, Daniel Kritenbrink, traveled to China earlier this week along with a senior National Security Council official.

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Blinken to travel to China next week, carrying out trip postponed after spy balloon incident