Antony Blinken to travel to China next week

US Secretary of State's visit comes as Biden administration pushes to improve ties with Beijing after balloon incident

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing last month. AFP
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken is planning to travel to China this month as President Joe Biden's administration pushes to improve badly deteriorated ties with Beijing.

US officials say Mr Blinken expects to be in Beijing on June 18 for meetings with senior Chinese officials, including Foreign Minister Qin Gang and possibly President Xi Jinping.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because neither the State Department nor the Chinese foreign ministry have yet confirmed the trip.

State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said: “We have no travel for the Secretary to announce".

The visit, which was agreed between Mr Xi and Mr Biden last year at a meeting in Bali, had been initially planned for February but was postponed after the spy balloon incident in which the US shot down a Chinese aircraft that Beijing insisted was a weather balloon that had strayed off course.

Since then, there have been contacts between the US and China, but they have been rare as tension has risen over China's conduct in the South China Sea, aggressive actions towards Taiwan and support for Russia's war against Ukraine.

Last week, China's Defence Minister rebuffed a request from US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin for a meeting on the sidelines of a security symposium in Singapore.

However, China's Commerce Minister travelled to the US last month and Mr Biden's National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met China's top diplomat, Wang Yi, in Vienna in early May.

The White House said at the time that the meeting “was part of ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication and responsibly manage competition”.

“The two sides agreed to maintain this important strategic channel of communication to advance these objectives,” it said.

More recently, the top US diplomat for the Asia-Pacific region, Daniel Kritenbrink, travelled to China earlier this week along with a senior National Security Council official.

Updated: June 09, 2023, 3:32 PM