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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken planning to travel to China
Washington: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to visit China in the next weeks, according to two US officials and a source familiar with the subject, CNN reported.
According to the sources, preparations for Blinken's travel to Beijing are ongoing. His trip to China's capital was originally slated for February, but it was postponed after a suspected Chinese spy balloon over the United States sparked indignation from the Biden administration.
But the two countries striving to restore normalcy in the relationship after an unusually tumultuous and stressful year, CNN reported.
The projected travel by the top US ambassador would be a big milestone in the two countries delicate relationship, which has been severely strained. US officials have emphasised the importance of regular communication lines in order to keep the "competitive" relationship from devolving into confrontation, and they have questioned China on the US' willingness for deeper participation at the cabinet level, CNN reported.
Asked about Blinken's planned travel to China, State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said Tuesday, "We have no travel for the Secretary to announce; as we've said previously the visit to the People's Republic of China will be rescheduled when conditions allow."
The news of the planned rescheduled trip comes after American and Chinese officials had "candid" and "productive" discussions in Beijing on Monday, according to readouts from both nations.
According to the readout from the State Department, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink and NSC Senior Director for China and Taiwan Affairs Sarah Beran, accompanied by US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, met with Ministry of Foreign Affairs Executive Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu and Director General of the North American and Oceanian Affairs Department Yang Tao, CNN reported.
"The two sides exchanged views on the bilateral relationship, cross-Strait issues, channels of communication, and other matters. US officials made clear that the United States would compete vigorously and stand up for US interests and values," the readout said.
China's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said the two sides had "candid, constructive, and productive communication on improving China-US relations" and "properly managing differences" in line with the consensus reached by Chinese leader Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden, who met on the sidelines of the G20 in Bali in November, CNN reported.
Blinken's original trip was intended to follow up on the meeting between the two leaders. The decision to postpone it was made after high-level conversations between Blinken, Biden and other top national security officials, according to people familiar with the matter.
At the time, Blinken said the balloon incident "created the conditions that undermine the purpose of the trip" but said he would visit Beijing "when conditions allow."
Last month, national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with top Chinese official Wang Yi in Vienna for "candid" and "constructive" talks, and a US senior administration official described that meeting as an attempt to put communications back on track after the spy balloon incident.
"I think both sides recognized that that unfortunate incident led to a bit of a pause in engagement. We're seeking now to move beyond that and reestablish just a standard normal channel of communications," the official said on a call with reporters after the meeting, CNN reported.
"We made clear where we stand in terms of the breach of sovereignty, we've been clear on that from the very get-go. But again, trying to look forward from here on," the official added, noting they focused on "how do we manage the other issues that are ongoing right now and manage the tension in the relationship that exists."
Referring to the "aggressive" intercepts from Chinese military aircraft and vessels including a close encounter between a Chinese fighter jet and a US military plane in international airspace over the South China Sea last week, US National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby on Tuesday called the increased interceptions by China in the air and at sea as "unprofessional".
"These are intercepts. Air and maritime intercepts happen all the time," he said."The difference [between US and China] is, we do it when we feel like we need to do it, it's done professionally and it's done inside the international law, and it's done in accordance with the rules of the road," Kirby added.
Speaking about the recent interceptions, the US revealed a video of a Chinese fighter pilot's "unnecessarily aggressive manoeuvre" on May 26 during an intercept of a US Air Force RC-135 aircraft on Tuesday, according to Standard Media.
"These that you saw recently, and they have happened with more frequency than we'd like, not all of them are unsafe and unprofessional, but these two were," he added.
"You saw in the air interceptions, They forced our aircraft, an RC 135, to basically go through the jet wash. You saw the bump in the cockpit. That shows you how close that Chinese fighter was to our jet," he said."And in the maritime intercept in the Taiwan Straits, 100 and 5141 hundred and 50 yards. Speaking as an old sailor myself, I'll tell you, that's pretty close when you're open waters like that," he said in a White House press briefing on Tuesday.(ANI)