US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to China this weekend amid growing tension between the two countries in a move to keep lines of communication open, the State Department said.
We hope to raise our concerns about China's activities in a number of areas during the trip, State Department Spokesman Matt Miller said at a press briefing. Miller stressed that US concerns are well known and include fentanyl trafficking, tension with Taiwan, and Beijing's alignment with Moscow in the Ukraine war.
Blinken will thus resume the visit to China that he postponed last February after denouncing the presence of an alleged Chinese spy balloon in US airspace. He will be the most senior US official to visit China since President Joseph Biden took office. Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang shared concerns on a phone call Wednesday, it was also reported in Washington DC.
Qin urged the United States to respect “China’s core concerns” such as the issue of Taiwan’s self-rule, “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, and stop harming China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests in the name of competition.” Qin noted China-US ties “have encountered new difficulties and challenges.”
Friction between Washington and Mexico has increased in recent months over fentanyl, an opiate that causes record numbers of overdose deaths in the United States, with both governments accusing each other of not doing enough to curb its trafficking and consumption. The Mexican government has denied that the substance is manufactured in its territory and has pointed the finger at China, which has also denied being behind its export. In a Senate hearing in May, Blinken charged that Beijing was not genuinely cooperating with Washington to curb drug trafficking.
We think we've strengthened the US ability to outmaneuver China with the actions and economic policies that we've taken. And we think it's important to have those lines of communication open, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said at her daily press briefing.
Since the balloon incident, there have been lower-level engagements between the US and China despite ongoing hostility and recriminations over both sides’ actions in the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea, China’s refusal to condemn Russia for its war against Ukraine, and allegations from Washington that Beijing is attempting to boost its worldwide surveillance capabilities, including in Cuba.
Blinken will leave Washington late Friday. He expects to meet with Qin on Sunday, as well as China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, and possibly Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday, according to US officials.
After his meetings in Beijing, Blinken will travel to London to attend a Ukraine reconstruction conference on June 21, the State Department said.