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No meeting planned between Blinken and China's Wang at G20: US official

No meeting planned between Blinken and China's Wang at G20: US official

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not in the picture) at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on Jun 23, 2021. (Photo: Clemens Bilan/Pool via REUTERS)

WASHINGTON: There is no meeting planned between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a G20 gathering in Italy next week, a State Department official said on Wednesday, after the Financial Times reported that Beijing and Washington were discussing such a meeting.

The newspaper, citing people briefed on the talks, said US President Joe Biden's administration had also informed counterparts in Beijing that it would like Wendy Sherman, deputy secretary of state, to visit China over the summer.

The White House had also held preliminary internal discussions about sending Blinken or Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, to China later this year, which could set the stage for Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping to hold a bilateral summit on the margins of the G20 leaders meeting in Rome in October, the British newspaper reported.

"There is no meeting planned between Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Wang at the upcoming G20 Ministerial," a State Department official said in response to a query about the report, while not commenting on the other details.

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China's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian was asked at a regular news briefing about the Financial Times report of a possible meeting between Blinken and Chinese officials at the G20 ministerial and replied: "I have no information to offer you at present."

Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States who was cited by the Financial Times, said she had heard from sources that after a Blinken-Wang Yi meeting there might be a phone call between Biden and Xi and then a visit by a State Department official to China over the summer.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wang and Blinken have not met since they and other officials were involved in fiery exchanges in Alaska in March during the Biden administration's first high-level meeting with its Chinese counterparts.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi takes part in a meeting during a visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Mar 24, 2021. (Photo: Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS)

Blinken held a call with China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi earlier this month and stressed the need for cooperation and transparency over the origins of COVID-19 and raised other contentious topics, including China's treatment of Uyghur Muslims, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

US-China relations deteriorated sharply under then-US President Donald Trump, and the Biden administration has maintained his tough approach, while stressing its interest in cooperation on areas of shared concern like climate change.

The Biden White House has taken a cautious approach to engagement with China as it has ramped up efforts to get allies and partners to confront Beijing on issues from human rights to unfair economic practices.

Analysts have widely suggested that the G20 summit in Italy would be a logical place for Biden's first meeting as president with Xi. By contrast, both Trump and then-President Barack Obama met their Chinese counterparts in-person in April of their first terms and later paid November visits to China.

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Frustrated with weak results from previous administrations' regular dialogue mechanisms with Beijing, Biden administration officials have welcomed engagement with China but said meetings would be on a case-by-case basis, not as part of a formalized structure.

China this month denounced a joint statement by the Group of Seven leaders led by Washington that scolded Beijing over a range of issues as a gross interference in the country's internal affairs. 

Source: Reuters/ec


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