No intentions of lifting sanctions on Chinese defense minister: US State Department

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The US said it has no plans to lift sanctions on Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu, appearing to backtrack on comments made a day earlier by President Joe Biden while he attended the Group of Seven summit in Japan.

Speaking to reporters in Washington on Monday, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller denied the US government was entertaining the idea of lifting sanctions on Li.

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China has rebuffed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s request to meet Li next month at a defense forum in Singapore because of the sanctions.

“No, we are not,” Miller said when asked if the State Department was considering lifting the sanctions. He added that Biden “made clear that we are not planning to lift any sanctions on him or on China more broadly.”

Asked on Sunday whether the US would lift sanctions on Li so he could meet Austin, Biden said: “That’s under negotiation right now.

More broadly, Biden voiced optimism that US-China relations would “begin to thaw very shortly after the shooting down of an alleged Chinese spy balloon thwarted positive momentum stemming from a meeting between the US president and Chinese leader Xi Jinping last year.

Tensions remain high on a number of fronts, with China accusing the US of seeking to contain its rise by restricting access to advanced technology and supporting Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory.

Despite the heated rhetoric, the White House has started engaging with China on multiple fronts of late.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in Vienna earlier this month, and China’s Commerce minister Wang Wentao is set to meet this week with both US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in Washington and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai in Detroit.

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