Mid-level talks in Beijing mark continuation of diplomacy despite rising tensions and competition between the US and China.
Washington, DC – United States officials had “candid and productive talks” with Chinese diplomats in Beijing, the US State Department said, amid rising tensions between the two countries.
Daniel Kritenbrink, assistant US secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and Sarah Beran, senior director of the National Security Council for China, met with Chinese officials Ma Zhaoxu and Yang Tao on Monday.
The mid-level talks, which mark continued diplomacy between the two countries despite growing competition, come two days after the US military accused China of “unsafe” maneuvers near a US military ship in the Taiwan Strait.
“The two sides had frank and productive discussions as part of ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication and build on recent high-level diplomacy between the two countries,” the State Department said in a statement.
The talks also follow a visit to China by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director William Burns last month, which was confirmed by several US media outlets last week.
The State Department said the two sides exchanged views on Monday about their bilateral relationship, their “channels of communication” and other issues, adding that US officials made it clear Washington would “stand up for US interests and values.”
The maritime incident days earlier had further underlined tensions between the two countries.
The US military’s Indo-Pacific Command said on Saturday that a Chinese ship was approaching the US destroyer USS Chung-Hoon, causing it to slow down to avoid a collision, in violation of the right to safe passage in international waters .
On Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin rejected the US version of events, accusing the US destroyer of conducting “provocations” first.
“The actions of the Chinese military are fully justified, lawful, safe and professional. It is the US that needs to reflect on and correct its misdeeds,” Wang said.
Last week, the US also said a Chinese jet performed “unnecessarily aggressive” maneuvers near a US aircraft over the South China Sea.
On Monday, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the two incidents are part of an “increasing degree of aggressiveness” by the Chinese military, warning that such maneuvers could lead to misunderstandings and miscalculations.
“If you have pieces of metal that size — whether in the air or at sea — and they’re acting so close together, it wouldn’t take much for an erroneous judgment or a mistake, and someone might get hurt,” he said. “And that just has to be unacceptable.”
Ties between Beijing and Washington have soured in recent years, over a host of issues including trade rules, Taiwan’s status, China’s claims in the South China Sea, and continued US pressure against growing Chinese influence in Asia- pacific.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a visit to China in February after US authorities shot down a Chinese spy balloon that had crossed the country.
Beijing insisted the plane was a weather balloon that went off course.
Both US and Chinese officials say they are not seeking confrontation or another Cold War. In May, US President Joe Biden predicted that there would be a “thaw” between the two countries “very soon”.