World

Blinken Meets China’s Top Diplomat in Latest Bid to Ease Tensions

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, on the sidelines of a regional summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Thursday, the latest in a string of diplomatic meetings between U.S. and Chinese officials as the two countries try to ease tensions.

The talks between Mr. Blinken and Mr. Wang touched on regional and global issues, including “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” said Matthew Miller, a spokesman for the State Department, who described the discussions as “candid and constructive.”

“The meeting was part of ongoing efforts to maintain open channels of communication to clarify U.S. interests across a wide range of issues and to responsibly manage competition by reducing the risk of misperception and miscalculation,” Mr. Miller said.

The Chinese government did not immediately release a statement about the meeting.

The talks, which took place at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting for foreign ministers, followed a four-day visit to China by Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen and a trip to Beijing last month by Mr. Blinken, the first to China by a U.S. secretary of state in five years. John Kerry, President Biden’s special envoy for climate change, is scheduled to arrive in China on Sunday.

The United States says it wants to set a “floor” for its relations with China, which have sunk to their lowest point in decades. Tensions have flared over U.S. trade restrictions on advanced technology to China, the appearance of a Chinese surveillance balloon over the United States, China’s continued support for Russia, and disagreements over Taiwan.

The détente between the two countries remains fragile, which was underscored on Wednesday when U.S. officials said Chinese hackers had penetrated the email accounts of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and other State and Commerce department officials in the weeks before Mr. Blinken traveled to Beijing.

Ties could fray further if the Biden administration announces new restrictions on American investments in Chinese companies involved in quantum computing, artificial intelligence and semiconductors.

Mr. Blinken reiterated American concerns to Mr. Wang about any cyberespionage against U.S. officials, businesses and citizens, a State Department official said, adding that the two sides also discussed China’s role in the U.S. fentanyl crisis.

Mr. Blinken’s attendance at the Indonesia meeting highlights how Southeast Asia has become a crucial part of the Biden administration’s strategy to compete with China. Washington has been emphasizing its security commitments in the region and is trying to offer more economic incentives to draw closer to the United States, but has struggled because of China’s dominance in trade.

While the United States has pushed back on China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, some countries in the region, including Indonesia, have demonstrated a reluctance to antagonize Beijing.

Last month, Indonesia said it would change the location of joint military drills with other ASEAN nations away from disputed waters in the South China Sea claimed by China. ASEAN is a regional group of 10 nations that includes Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Earlier Thursday, Mr. Wang met with Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia and spoke of promoting multilateralism and the “democratization” of international relations, according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The meeting came a day after NATO allies concluded a summit that focused on thwarting Russia’s war in Ukraine and highlighting the threat posed by China.

Mr. Wang was attending the ASEAN meeting in place of Qin Gang, China’s foreign minister, because of “health reasons,” China’s foreign ministry said earlier this week.

Mr. Qin’s last public appearance was on June 25 during a meeting in Beijing with Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son of Vietnam, according to the Chinese foreign ministry’s website.

Edward Wong contributed reporting.

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