By David Brunnström
NUSA DUA, Indonesia, July 9 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Bali on Saturday after a G20 ministerial meeting on the Indonesian island where the top U.S. diplomat led talks efforts to pressure Russia over its war in Ukraine.
US officials said Blinken’s first face-to-face meeting with Wang since October, which includes a morning session of talks and a working lunch, is aimed at keeping the US’s strained relationship with Beijing stable and at prevent them from inadvertently tipping into a conflict.
Blinken is expected to repeat warnings to China not to support Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine and the two sides will address contentious issues such as Taiwan, China’s extensive claims to the South China Sea, steps taken by Beijing to expand its influence across the Pacific, human rights and trade. prices.
However, both sides share an interest in maintaining stable relations and Blinken and US officials said US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to speak again in the coming weeks, which Saturday’s meeting should address.
Daniel Russel, a senior U.S. diplomat for East Asia under former President Barack Obama who maintains close contact with Biden administration officials, said he believed a key purpose of the meeting would be to explore the possibility of a face-to-face meeting between Biden and Xi, their first as leaders, possibly on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali in November.
Washington calls China its main strategic rival and fears it will one day try to take control of the self-governing democratic island of Taiwan, just as Russia attacked Ukraine.
The current top US diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Kritenbrink, said on Tuesday he expected a “frank” exchange with Wang and said it would be another opportunity “to convey our expectations about what we expect China to do and not do in the context of Ukraine.
Shortly before Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Beijing and Moscow announced a “limitless” partnership. But US officials said they had not seen China evade tough US sanctions on Moscow or supply military equipment to Russia.
However, China refused to condemn Russia’s actions and criticized the sweeping sanctions. US officials have warned of consequences, including sanctions, if China begins offering material support to Russia’s war effort, which Moscow calls a ‘special military operation’ to downgrade Ukraine’s military , although Kyiv counters that this is an imperial-style land grab.
U.S. officials aren’t expecting specific results from Saturday’s talks, but Kritenbrink said it was “critical” to keep lines of communication open with China to “prevent any miscalculations that could inadvertently lead to a conflict and confrontation”.
The meeting will be the last high-level contact between the United States and China.
Despite their strategic rivalry, the world’s two largest economies remain major trading partners and Biden is considering removing tariffs on a range of Chinese goods to curb soaring US inflation ahead of November’s midterm elections. , with an emphasis on congressional oversight.
Analysts say Xi has an interest in maintaining stable relations with Washington for now as he seeks an unprecedented third term at a ruling Communist Party congress later this year.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen spoke with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on Monday and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi last month in Luxemburg.
The White House said Tuesday it was still considering options on whether to lower tariffs on Chinese imports, even as demands from industry to keep the duties in place grew. No decisive announcement is expected from Blinken and Wang’s meeting on Saturday. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)