Blinken to take delayed China trip this month: Reports

US secretary of state is expected to meet top Chinese officials, US media outlets say, on visit delayed since February.

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to visit Beijing as early as next week, US media outlets have reported, amid increasing tensions between Washington and Beijing [File: Olivier Douliery/Pool via AP Photo]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to travel to China this month on a long-delayed trip, US media outlets have reported, as the top United States diplomat seeks to improve his country’s strained relationship with Beijing.

Citing unnamed US officials, The Associated Press reported on Friday that Blinken expects to be in the Chinese capital on June 18 for talks with top Chinese officials. That includes Foreign Minister Qin Gang and “possibly” President Xi Jinping, the news agency said.

US media outlet Politico, citing two people familiar with the plans, also reported on Thursday that the trip could take place “as soon as next week”.

Neither the US Department of State nor the Chinese foreign ministry have confirmed the trip.

Blinken’s trip to China was postponed in early February after Washington said a Chinese “spy balloon” had been spotted over US territory, prompting allegations of surveillance.

Beijing expressed regret for the balloon entering US airspace, saying it was a civilian airship used for meteorological research, and Chinese officials later condemned US President Joe Biden’s decision to shoot it down.

“It’s very important to emphasise that the presence of this surveillance balloon over the United States, in our skies, is a clear violation of our sovereignty, a clear violation of international law and clearly unacceptable,” Blinken said at the time.

The incident added to already-tense relations between the US and China.

While both countries have expressed a desire to avoid a “new Cold War”, ties have soured amid disagreements over trade, the status of Taiwan, China’s claims in the South China Sea and a continuing US push against growing Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific, among other issues.

However, the White House has previously said that the two superpowers are trying to “maintain open lines of communication and responsibly manage competition”.

Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, held talks with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, in early May in the Austrian capital of Vienna. Daniel Kritenbrink, the top US diplomat for the Asia-Pacific region, also travelled to China earlier this week.

However, the Chinese defence minister reportedly turned down an offer by US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin to talk during a security symposium in Singapore last week.

Blinken’s trip would be the highest-level visit by a US official to China since former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2018, Politico reported.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies