US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has met with top diplomats in Beijing as he continues his two-day mission to try and cool US-China tensions.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken began a second and final day of critical meetings with senior Chinese officials on Monday.
The two sides expressed willingness to talk but showed little inclination to bend on hardened positions that have sent tensions soaring.
Blinken met with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi for about three hours, according to a US official, yet it is still not confirmed whether Blinken will meet President Xi Jinping before he departs in the late evening.
"It is necessary to make a choice between dialogue and confrontation, cooperation and conflict," Wang was quoted as saying in a report by the Chinese public television CCTV.
"Maintaining national unity is always at the heart of China's fundamental interests" and "on this issue, China will not make any compromises or concessions" about Taiwan, he added.
In the first round of talks on Sunday, Blinken met for nearly six hours with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang after which both countries said they had agreed to continue high-level discussions. However, there was no sign that any of the most fractious issues between them were closer to resolution.
Tensions between the two have flared up over Taiwan. High-level officials have visited the autonomous island, provoking the ire of China which claims it as part of its territory.
Despite Blinken’s presence in China, he and other US officials had played down the prospects for any significant breakthroughs on the most vexing issues facing the planet’s two largest economies.
Instead, Blinken and other officials have emphasised the importance of the US and China establishing and maintaining better lines of communication.
The two sides both said Qin had accepted an invitation from Blinken to visit Washington but Beijing made clear that “the China-US relationship is at the lowest point since its establishment.”
That sentiment is widely shared by US officials.
The State Department said Blinken had stressed “the importance of diplomacy and maintaining open channels of communication across the full range of issues to reduce the risk of misperception and miscalculation.”
Beijing, meanwhile, restated its position that the current state of relations “does not serve the fundamental interests of the two peoples or meet the shared expectations of the international community,” according to the foreign ministry.
Blinken is the highest-level American official to visit China since President Joe Biden took office and his two-day trip comes after his initial trip was postponed in February after the shootdown of a Chinese surveillance balloon over the US.
Biden and Xi had made commitments to improve communications “precisely so that we can make sure we are communicating as clearly as possible to avoid possible misunderstandings and miscommunications,” Blinken said before leaving for Beijing.
His talks could pave the way for a meeting in the coming months between Biden and Xi.
Biden said Saturday that he hoped to be able to meet with Xi in the coming months to take up the plethora of differences that divide them. That long list includes disagreements ranging from trade to Taiwan, human rights conditions in China and Hong Kong to Chinese military assertiveness in the South China Sea and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
In his meetings on Sunday, Blinken also pressed the Chinese to release detained American citizens and to take steps to curb the production and export of fentanyl precursors that are fueling the opioid crisis in the United States.
Blinken “made clear that the United States will always stand up for the interests and values of the American people and work with its allies and partners to advance our vision for a world that is free, open, and upholds the international rules-based order,” the State Department said.
The Chinese foreign ministry countered in its statement that “China hopes that the US will adopt an objective and rational perception of China, work with China in the same direction, uphold the political foundation of China-US relations, and handle unexpected and sporadic events in a calm, professional and rational manner.”