(CNN) The White House announced Thursday that National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with senior Chinese official Wang Yi in Vienna for “frank” and “constructive” talks.
The previously undisclosed meeting is among the highest-profile engagements between US and Chinese officials since Spy balloon accident Earlier this year, which prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a planned trip to Beijing, and it comes in the midst of an incredibly tumultuous year in relations between the two countries.
“This meeting is part of the ongoing effort to maintain open lines of communication and manage competition responsibly,” a statement from the White House said at the meeting on Wednesday and Thursday.
“The two sides had candid, substantive, and constructive discussions on major issues in bilateral relations between the United States and China, global and regional security issues, Russia’s war against Ukraine, and cross-strait issues, among other topics,” the statement read.
A senior administration official said the meeting was an attempt to get communications back on track after the spy balloon incident.
“I think both sides realized that this unfortunate incident led to a temporary pause in the engagement. We are now seeking to bypass that and re-establish a normal channel of communication only,” the official said in a phone call with reporters after the war. interview.
“We’ve made our position on the violation of sovereignty clear, we’ve made it clear from the start. But again, we’re trying to look forward from here on,” the official added, noting that they focused on “how do we manage the other issues that are going on right now and manage the tension in the existing relationship?” .
The official said Chinese officials see the importance of reaching out to the United States to try to manage the relationship, which the official said is a “departure” from Chinese statements about previous US-China engagements.
“I think both sides thought it would be useful to try to have another conversation at the director of national security advisor level,” they said. The last time officials met at this level was last June.
“I think both sides see value in this kind of low-profile channel to deal with some of the more complex issues in the bilateral relationship,” the official added.
The official said the meeting came together “fairly quickly” and lasted eight hours over two days in Vienna. The official told reporters that it was one of the most constructive meetings they had attended.
Sullivan told Wang that the United States and China are rivals but that the United States “does not seek conflict or confrontation.”
He raised the cases of three unjustly detained US citizens – Mark Swedan, Kay Lee, and David Lane. The two sides also discussed the issue of combating drugs.
The official said they did not go into details about rescheduling Blinken’s trip to Beijing, but “expect there will be engagements…in both directions over the coming months.”
They did not go into details about setting a date for a call between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping, the official said, “but I think both sides understand the importance of communication at the leader level.”
Blinken was scheduled to fly to China in early February, but the trip was postponed in response to a Chinese observation balloon crossing the United States.
The top US diplomat said the balloon’s presence over the United States “created conditions that undermined the purpose of the flight.”
In February, weeks after the balloon incident, Blinken met Wang On the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
At that meeting, Blinken spoke directly about the unacceptable violation of US sovereignty and international law, and said that incidents like the blimp, which hovered over American airspace for days before being shot down by the United States off the coast of South Carolina, should never happen. “Once again,” former State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Blinken, described by a senior State Department official as “very direct and blunt throughout,” began the hour-long meeting by saying “how unacceptable and irresponsible” that China launched the blimp into US airspace. The senior official told reporters later that the minister expressed his disappointment that Beijing did not engage in military dialogue when the balloon incident occurred.
“He stated, frankly, that we are disappointed that at this recent period our Chinese military counterparts have refused to pick up the phone. We think that’s unfortunate. And that’s not how our two sides should conduct business.” official said.
At an event in early May, US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns said the US was “ready to talk” with China and hoped that “Beijing will meet us halfway on this issue”.
He said the United States is ready for “a broader engagement at the cabinet level,” adding, “We have never supported a icing on the cake.”
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