Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to travel to China this weekend on a diplomatic mission to try to tamp down heightened tensions.
The trip is one that had initially been scheduled for the weekend of February 4-5. However, the revelation of a Chinese spy balloon crossing the continental U.S.—which was eventually shot down by the Pentagon off the South Carolina coast—had compelled Blinken to postpone the visit indefinitely.
China stated in mid-February that the U.S. had not created “the proper atmosphere for dialogue” at this time.
Since then, however, the U.S. and China have undertaken low-level engagements despite tensions over not just the balloon incident but also both sides’ actions in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, as well as China’s refusal to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine nearly 16 months ago.
Last month White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan held unpublicized talks with senior Chinese Foreign Policy Adviser Wang Yi in Vienna, during which he said the U.S. was “looking to move beyond” the tensions sparked by the balloon incident. Chinese state media afterward referred to the pair’s discussions as “substantive.”
According to the State Department, Blinken spoke on Tuesday with his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Qin Gang, to confirm his visit this weekend, during which Blinken plans to “discuss the importance of maintaining open lines of communication to responsibly manage” the U.S.-China “relationship.”
“He will also raise bilateral issues of concern, global and regional matters, and potential cooperation on shared transnational challenges,” the department added.
China’s Foreign Ministry said that on Tuesday’s call Qin urged the United States to respect “China’s core concerns” and to “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, and stop harming China’s sovereignty, security and development interests in the name of competition.”
Blinken will be the first Secretary of State to visit China since 2018. U.S. officials said that he expects to meet with Qin on Sunday, as well as Wang, and possibly Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday.