US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said he discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and raised concerns about Beijing’s siding with Moscow.
The two diplomats described their personal talks on Saturday – which lasted for five hours – as “candid”, as their meeting took place a day after they attended a meeting of G20 foreign ministers on the Indonesian island of Bali.
“Despite the complexities of our relationship, I can say with some confidence that our delegations found today’s discussions useful, frank and constructive,” Blinken said.
“I shared again with State Councilor that we are concerned about the PRC aligning itself with Russia,” Blinken said.
Blinken said he did not think China was acting in a neutral manner because it had supported Russia at the United Nations and “Russian propaganda has been amplified”.
“The relationship between the United States and China is of great importance to our two countries but also to the world. We are committed to managing this relationship and this competition responsibly,” he said, promising to maintain open diplomatic channels with Beijing.
After the meeting, a US official said “neither side backed down” during the talks.
“We were very open about where our differences were…but the meeting was also constructive because, frankly, the tone was very professional,” the official said.
Blinken said Chinese President Xi Jinping made it clear in a phone call with President Vladimir Putin on June 13 that he sticks to the decision to form a partnership with Russia.
Shortly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Beijing and Moscow announced a “borderless” partnership, although US officials say they have not seen China evade tough US-led sanctions on Russia or provide it with military equipment.
US officials have warned of the consequences, including sanctions, if China provides material support for the war, which Moscow calls a “special military operation” to weaken the Ukrainian army. Kyiv and its Western allies said the invasion was an unjustified land grab.
Blinken said he also stressed US concerns about China’s “increasingly provocative rhetoric and activity near Taiwan and the vital importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
He added that he also raised human rights concerns regarding minorities in Tibet and western Xinjiang.
China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the two sides broadly agreed to work to improve relations, but they also raised a long list of grievances against Washington, accusing the United States of “smearing and attacking China.”
The ministry said in a statement that Wang refuted some “erroneous US views” on Xinjiang, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.
Wang also called on the United States to raise tariffs on imports from China as soon as possible, stop interfering in the country’s internal affairs and refrain from harming its interests in the name of human rights and democracy.
“Both sides believe that this dialogue is objective and constructive, which will help promote mutual understanding, reduce misunderstanding and miscalculation, and pool conditions for future high-level exchanges between the two countries,” the statement added.
US officials said before the talks that the meeting was aimed at keeping US-China relations stable and preventing them from inadvertently turning into conflict.
The United States has described China as its main strategic rival and is concerned that it may one day try to gain control of the self-ruled, democratic island of Taiwan.
Despite their rivalry, the world’s two largest economies remain major trading partners. The Biden administration is widely expected to soon ease some of Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods, a move that could ease soaring inflation, which has become a major political burden in America.
Asked about his refusal to hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the G20, Blinkin said Washington saw no “indications” of Russia’s involvement with G20 diplomats over its invasion of Ukraine.
The day before, Foreign Minister Lavrov pulled out of talks with other G-20 foreign ministers meeting in Indonesia as Western powers criticized Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.
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