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Bolstered by Allies, Biden Officials Take Blunt Message To First China Talks

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The United States will take an uncompromising stance on talks with China on Thursday in Alaska, officials said, in the first face-to-face meetings between senior officials from two rivals since the U.S. president took office. and Joe Biden.

Beijing called for a reset on relations, now at their lowest in decades, but Washington said talks in Alaska would be a one-off, and any future engagement would depend on improving relations. behavior of China.

“We look forward to the opportunity to lay out clear terms to our Chinese counterpart of some of the concerns we have about the actions they are taking,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday in Tokyo.

Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan will meet top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi and State Councilor Wang Yi in Alaska, before visiting Japan and South Korea’s allies aimed at emphasizing U.S. commitment to Indo -Pacific in the face of Beijing’s lift.

In Tokyo on Tuesday, Blinken vowed to push against Beijing’s “coercion and aggression,” including its extensive territorial claims in the East and South China Seas.

It’s a measure of rudeness that has come to mark the U.S. posture toward Beijing under Biden, as the two largest economies in the world are looking for a look of solid ground on which to base relations, after they sank under former President Donald Trump.

The Anchorage meeting – the first high -level face -to -face exchange since June when Blinken’s predecessor Mike Pompeo, held a frigid meeting with Yang in Hawaii – was likely to be short on diplomatic courtesies. , or outcomes.

Due to COVID restrictions, there are no plans for a shared meal, which has been a feature in recent exchanges. And there are indications that both sides have different expectations.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian described the talks as a “high-level strategic dialogue”.

China hopes the meeting will help set a broad framework for resuming engagement, rather than resolving specific issues, a person in Beijing familiar with planning for the talks told Reuters.

But Biden officials are clear that Alaska is not a return to regular dialogue, which under previous administrations has not much resolved Washington’s concerns over Beijing.

“We hope there are parts of the conversation that can be difficult,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

A senior U.S. administration official said in a briefing that Washington looks at “deeds, not words” if Beijing wants to change the tone of relations.

‘FIRST ROUND OF A BOXING MATCH’

On paper, at least, the context for the two countries ’relationship has changed for Beijing since Trump, along with his go-it-alone“ America First ”foreign policy. Biden has promised to restore alliances with America, and its partners appear ready to push.

The United States, Japan, India, and Australia last week held a summit of leaders, pledging to work on maritime, cyber, and economic security, issues important to the four democracies in the face of challenges. from China.

And the Biden administration began with a “roadshow in Europe”, which U.S. officials called daily engagement with Europe on issues including China’s rise.

Evan Medeiros, an Asian expert in the Obama administration who now teaches at Georgetown University, called the talk in Alaska “the first round of a boxing match” that is unlikely to resolve any major issues, but could reduce chances of miscalculation between rivals.

“I think most of all it’s going to be the release of grievances on both sides,” Medeiros said.

TO ONLY US

Sullivan told reporters last week that he did not expect Trump’s Phase 1 trade deal, or details on tariffs or export controls, to be a major topic in Alaska, and noted that many of the economic specialists required to reach detailed agreements do not exist.

Sullivan said the United States will use the meeting to convey to China its strategic aspirations and concerns on China’s actions, including the decline of democracy in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, diseases across the Taiwan Strait, economic coercion in Australia, and water harassment disputed by Japan around the Senkaku islands.

Those are the places where Beijing says Washington should not interfere.

Biden officials said it was important to them that their first high-level contact with China took place in the United States, with Alaska a symbolic symbol of the country’s eternal Pacific power.

This will be the second consecutive time in less than a year that Yang has flown US soil. Despite this gesture, seen by Chinese observers as a sign of Beijing’s goodwill, little hope appears, on both sides, for victories.

“Even with some initial cooperation on concrete things like climate change, the positive impact of that is insignificant in the face of relations marked by competition and confrontation on all fronts,” said Shi Yinhong a professor. at Renmin University in Beijing on Reuters.

(Reporting by Michael Martina, David Brunnstrom, and Steve Holland in Washington; Humeyra Pamuk in Seoul; and Yew Lun Tian and Gabriel Crossley in Beijing; Editing by Michael Perry)

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