A senior US diplomat will embark on a rare trip to Beijing Sunday, the government said, as Washington seeks to allay tensions between the rival powers.
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink will travel to China and New Zealand from June 4–10, the US State Department said in a statement Saturday.
In Beijing, Kritenbrink will be joined by National Security Council Senior Director for China and Taiwan Affairs Sarah Beran to “discuss key issues in the bilateral relationship,” according to the statement.
In recent weeks Washington has made efforts to improve relations with China, with both sides warning over the danger of a military conflict over Taiwan.
At the G7 meeting in Japan last month, US President Joe Biden predicted that ties between Washington and Beijing would soon thaw, after an alleged Chinese spy balloon was shot down by a US warplane after traversing the country earlier this year.
Speaking at a defense summit in Singapore, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Saturday it was critical to renew dialogue with China to avoid “misunderstandings” that could lead to a conflict between the two superpowers.
“The United States believes that open lines of communication with the People’s Republic of China are essential -- especially between our defense and military leaders,” Austin told the Shangri-La Dialogue.
“The more that we talk, the more that we can avoid the misunderstandings and miscalculations that could lead to crisis or conflict.”
The United States had invited Austin’s Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu to meet on the sidelines of the summit, but the Pentagon said Beijing declined.
A member of China’s delegation told AFP that the removal of US sanctions on its minister is a precondition for talks.
Li was sanctioned by the US government in 2018 for buying Russian weapons, but the Pentagon says that does not prevent Austin from conducting official business with him.
Kritenbrink’s trip will be the latest in a series of engagements between the two countries’ officials.
CIA Director William Burns made a secret trip to China last month, hoping to shore up lines of communication, and this week the White House said it was ready to engage in nuclear arms talks with Beijing without preconditions.
In May, China’s Commerce Minister Wang Wentao visited Washington to meet with his American counterpart.
Kritenbrink had traveled to China to prepare a long-awaited trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken in February, which Blinken cancelled after the United States said it spotted a surveillance balloon from China over the US mainland.