US diplomat engages Chinese officials on Middle East, South China Sea, Taiwan

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The top US diplomat for East Asia discussed Middle East developments, the South China Sea and Taiwan issues with Chinese counterparts in Beijing, the State Department said on Monday, the latest effort by the two countries to stabilize rocky ties.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink met with Executive Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu, as well as with Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office Deputy Director Qiu Kaiming, the State Department said in a statement on the April 14-16 visit.

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The officials, including US National Security Council senior director for China and Taiwan Sarah Beran and US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, discussed bilateral, regional and global issues, including the Middle East, China’s support for Russia’s defense industrial base, cross-Strait issues, the South China Sea and North Korea, the department said.

“The visit builds on recent high-level diplomacy with the PRC to manage areas of difference as well as areas of cooperation, while reducing the risk of miscalculation,” it said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

The statement gave few details on the talks.

Though US officials say communication channels with Beijing have largely normalized after months of heightened tensions, they have also warned that Chinese support for Russia’s war in Ukraine put stabilizing ties at risk.

The meetings come ahead of the May presidential inauguration in democratically governed Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory, and after the US held summits last week with both Japan and the Philippines that focused on pushing back against China in the South China Sea and elsewhere.

In meetings with the Philippines, the US reiterated its “ironclad” support for the Philippines amid Manila’s maritime dispute with China in the South China Sea, in which there have been several tense run-ins in recent weeks.

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