Antony Blinken, China’s Wang Yi discuss Russia, US sanctions

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised concerns over Beijing’s backing for Russia’s war against Ukraine on Friday in talks with China’s top diplomat Wang Yi, who called for Washington to lift sanctions on Chinese entities.

Blinken and Wang’s meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference follows an extremely fraught period between the two giants over issues including Taiwan, trade and human rights.

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Washington and Beijing have also been at odds over China’s detente with Russia as Moscow wages war in Ukraine.

But tensions have eased markedly over the past year as Washington pursued dialogue with Beijing.

Blinken underlined the “importance of continuing to implement the progress made” at a November summit between US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, said State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

He also raised the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the South China Sea, the spokesman added.

Wang echoed Blinken’s sentiments about the Biden-Xi summit, saying both sides needed to work to “promote a sound, steady and sustainable development of bilateral relations”, according to a readout from China’s foreign ministry.

The ministry said the two held “candid, substantive and constructive discussions”, with Wang calling on the United States to “lift illegal unilateral sanctions against Chinese companies and individuals”.

Wang also urged the US to “stop unwarranted harassment and interrogation of Chinese citizens and to promote activities that enhance mutual understanding between the two peoples,” the ministry said.

Russia fears

On Russia, Blinken raised US concerns that Moscow was developing a space-based anti-satellite weapon -- an issue he also brought up at a separate meeting with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

Washington publicly addressed the “space-based” weapon on Thursday, with Moscow denying the assertions as “malicious” and “unfounded.”

At meetings with Wang and Jaishankar, Blinken “emphasized that the pursuit of this capability should be a matter of concern,” said the US official, adding he planned to raise the issue at Munich Security Conference meetings.

While Beijing still resents US measures such as the banning of exports of advanced semiconductors, relations between the two giants have stabilized somewhat since Biden met Xi in San Francisco in November.

Making good on a commitment made during the summit, a US delegation held an inaugural meeting in February in China on the flow of fentanyl, the powerful painkiller behind an addiction epidemic in the United States.

US officials believe China wants to focus on economic headwinds at home and that it acted with relative moderation during last month’s elections in Taiwan.

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