Wednesday , August 17 2022

Blinken presses his Chinese counterpart about the war.

NUSA DUA, Indonesia — Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with his Chinese counterpart on Saturday, pressing him to “stand up” against Russia’s war in Ukraine while also extending a hand of cooperation amid a Biden administration campaign to stabilize its strained relationship with Beijing.

The meeting, held on the Indonesian resort island of Bali one day after a summit of Group of 20 foreign ministers, followed months of American warnings to China against sending weapons to Russia or helping Moscow evade Western sanctions imposed in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

Mr. Blinken met for more than five hours at a seaside hotel with the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, the latest in a series of high-level American encounters with top Chinese officials that analysts called a mutual effort at easing tensions.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Mr. Blinken dismissed China’s claims to be neutral in the war between Russia and Ukraine as implausible. He said that China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, had continued to stand by his February declaration of a partnership with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, that China had supported Russia at the United Nations and that it had “amplified Russian propaganda.” And Mr. Blinken pointed out that Beijing and Moscow held a joint strategic bomber exercise in May.

“I tried to convey to the state councilor that this really is a moment where we all have to stand up” to condemn Russian aggression, Mr. Blinken said, using Mr. Wang’s formal title. “What you hear from Beijing is that it claims to be neutral. I would start with the proposition that it’s pretty hard to be neutral when it comes to this aggression,” he said. “There’s a clear aggressor. There’s a clear victim.”

Mr. Blinken also echoed recent remarks by numerous U.S. officials as he emphasized the importance of cooperation between Beijing and Washington on issues of shared interest, including climate change and global health.

“The relationship between the United States and China is highly consequential for our countries, but also for the world,” Mr. Blinken said.

After several months of being consumed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Biden officials have been focusing anew on China, which they call the top long-term strategic threat to the United States.

Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, met last month in Europe with Yang Jiechi, another senior Chinese diplomat; and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III saw his Chinese counterpart a few days later in Singapore. This month, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen held a videoconference with a Chinese vice premier, Liu He. And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, spoke by phone with his counterpart, Li Zuocheng, last week.

Danny Russel, a former senior State Department official who is a vice president at the Asia Society, a policy institute, said that the big question now was whether Mr. Biden and Mr. Xi would have their first in-person meeting, most likely on the sidelines of a G20 summit in November.

“Both sides seem to think that leveraging the personal relationship between Biden and Xi would go a long way to stabilizing the relationship at a time of turbulence for both the U.S. and China.” Mr. Russel said. “There are no guarantees that these efforts will succeed, and neither side is likely to be public about their plans, but it certainly feels as if there is a convergence around the idea of a face-to-face meeting.”


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