US and Chinese foreign ministers hold first face-to-face talks since October


NUSA DUA, Indonesia, July 9 (Reuters) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met on Saturday for the first personal talks since October after attending a G20 summit where the top US diplomat led efforts to pressure Russia over the war in Ukraine.

US officials say Blinken’s meeting with Wang in Bali, Indonesia, including a morning session of talks and a working lunch, aims to keep the US’s troubled relationship with China stable and prevent it from inadvertently getting into conflict. read more

“There is no substitute for personal … diplomacy, and in a relationship as complex and pervasive as that between the United States and China, there is much to talk about,” Blinken told reporters at the start of the meeting.

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“We are very much looking forward to a productive and constructive conversation,” he said.

Blinken is expected to repeat warnings to China not to support Russia’s war in Ukraine and the two sides will tackle controversial issues, including Taiwan, China’s extensive claims to the South China Sea, its expansion of influence in the Pacific, human rights and trade tariffs.

However, both sides share an interest in keeping the relationship stable and Blinken and US officials say President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to speak again in the coming weeks, something Saturday’s meeting is likely to address.

“China and the United States are two big countries, so it is imperative that the two countries maintain normal exchanges,” Wang told reporters.

“At the same time, we need to talk to each other to make sure this relationship stays on the right track,” Wang said.

Daniel Russel, a top US diplomat for East Asia under former President Barack Obama who is in close contact with officials in the Biden administration, said he believed a key purpose of the meeting would be to open up the possibility of a face-to-face meeting between Biden and Biden. Xi, their first as leaders, possibly on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Bali in November.

The United States calls China its main strategic rival and is concerned it could one day try to take over the self-ruled democratic island of Taiwan, just as Russia attacked Ukraine.

The top US diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Kritenbrink, said on Tuesday he expected a “candid” exchange with Wang and said it would be another opportunity “to convey our expectations of what we would expect China to do and not to do in the context of Ukraine”.

Shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Beijing and Moscow announced a “no borders” partnership. But US officials have said they have not seen China escape harsh US-led sanctions against Russia or provide military equipment.

However, China has refused to condemn Russia’s actions and has criticized the sweeping sanctions.

US officials have warned of repercussions, including sanctions, if China provides material support to the Russian war effort, calling it a “special military operation” to downgrade Ukraine’s military, though Kiev counters that it is an imperialist land grab.

Despite their strategic rivalry, the world’s two largest economies remain important trading partners and Biden has considered cutting tariffs on a range of Chinese goods to curb rising US inflation ahead of November’s midterm elections, which center on Congressional scrutiny. read more

(This story has been re-archived to edit the headline to show personal conversations first)

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Additional reporting by Ryan Woo in Beijing; Written by Ed Davies; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Robert Birsel

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