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Blinken travels to China to try to bridge several major divisions

Blinken travels to China to try to bridge several major divisions


Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken begins three days of talks with senior Chinese officials in Shanghai and Beijing this week, with U.S.-China relations at a critical point over many global disputes.

The simple fact that Blinken is making the trip shortly after a conversation between President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, a similar visit to China by Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, and a call between U.S. defense chiefs and Chinese might be seen by some as encouraging, but ties between Washington and Beijing are strained and divisions are widening.

From Russia and Ukraine to Israel, Iran and the broader Middle East, including Indo-Pacific and trade issues, the United States and China are engaged in a series of collision trajectories that have raised fears about military and strategic security as well as international economic stability.

Blinken will raise our concerns clearly and frankly in talks that begin Wednesday, a senior State Department official said.

Here's a look at some of the key questions Blinken is expected to address during the trip:

Russia-Ukraine War

The Biden administration has become increasingly concerned in recent months about Chinese support for Russia's defense industrial base, which U.S. officials say allows Moscow to overcome Western sanctions imposed after its invasion of Ukraine and resupply its army. U.S. officials say it will be one of the main topics of conversation during Blinkens' visit.

While the United States says it has no evidence that China is actually arming Russia, officials say other activities are potentially just as problematic.

If China claims, on the one hand, to want good relations with Europe and other countries, it cannot, on the other hand, fuel what constitutes the greatest threat to European security since the end of the Cold War, Blinken said last week.

China says it has the right to trade with Russia and accuses the United States of fanning the flames by arming and financing Ukraine. It is extremely hypocritical and irresponsible for the United States to introduce a large-scale aid bill to Ukraine while making unfounded accusations against normal economic and trade exchanges between China and Russia, he said. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in Beijing on Tuesday.

A senior State Department official said Friday that thanks to China's support, Russia has largely rebuilt its defense industrial base, which impacts not only the battlefield in Ukraine but is, in our view, a greater threat to European security as a whole.

Tensions in the Middle East

U.S. officials, from Biden on down, have repeatedly called on China to use whatever leverage it has with Iran to prevent Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza from escalating into a wider regional conflict.

Although China appears to have been generally receptive to such calls, particularly because it relies heavily on oil imports from Iran and other Middle Eastern countries, tensions have continued to rise since the start of the war in Gaza in October and the recent direct strikes and counterattacks between Israel and Iran.

Blinken has pushed China to take a more active stance in pressuring Iran not to escalate tensions in the Middle East. He has spoken with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, several times over the past six months and urged China to tell Iran to restrict proxy groups it has supported in the region, including Hamas , Lebanese Hezbollah, Yemen's Houthis and Iranian-backed militias in the region. Iraq and Syria.

Blinken told Wang in a phone call this month that escalation was not in anyone's interest and that countries should urge Iran not to escalate, the Department spokesperson said of State, Matthew Miller, about their last conversation.

The senior State Department official said Blinken would reiterate U.S. interest in China by using whatever channels or influence it has to try to convey the need for restraint to all parties. parties, including Iran.

Taiwan and the South China Sea

In the Indo-Pacific region, China and the United States are the main players, but Beijing has become increasingly aggressive in recent years toward Taiwan and its smaller Southeast Asian neighbors with whom it has relations. major territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

The United States has strongly condemned Chinese military exercises threatening Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province, and vowed to reunify it with the mainland by force if necessary. Successive US administrations have gradually increased their military support and sales to Taipei, much to the chagrin of Chinese anger.

The senior State Department official said Blinken would emphasize, both privately and publicly, the continued U.S. interest in maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. We believe this is of vital importance for the region and the world.

In the South China Sea, the United States and others are increasingly concerned about China's provocative actions in and around disputed areas.

In particular, the United States has expressed objections to what it sees as Chinese attempts to thwart the legitimate maritime activities of other countries at sea, including the Philippines and Vietnam. It was a major concern this month when Biden held a three-way summit with the prime minister of Japan and the president of the Philippines.

Human rights and synthetic opioids

The United States and China deeply disagree over human rights in the western region of Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, as well as the fate of several American citizens who, according to the State Department, were unjustly detained by Chinese authorities.

China has repeatedly rejected U.S. criticism as inappropriate interference in its internal affairs. Still, Blinken will raise these issues again, according to the senior State Department official, who added that China's efforts to curb the export of materials used by traffickers to make fentanyl have not yet yielded results. significant results.

The two sides agreed last year to create a working group to examine ways to combat the increased production of fentanyl precursors in China and their export abroad. U.S. officials say they have made limited progress in cracking down on the illicit industry, but many producers have found ways to get around the new restrictions.

Lee writes for the Associated Press. AP writer Ken Moritsugu in Beijing contributed.




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