Chinese Foreign Minister to pay rare visit to United States

Top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi (C) prepares to attend a symposium at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on Oct. 24, 2023. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo NO USE JAPAN

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is scheduled to visit the United States later this week as part of ongoing efforts to mend the strained relations between the two nations amidst increasing geopolitical challenges. Wang’s trip to Washington is set for October 26-28, where he will hold meetings with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan. This visit comes after Blinken and other high-ranking officials from the US travelled to Beijing in June. Both countries are eager to ensure that their differences do not escalate into conflict and that they can collaborate on matters of shared interest.

The meetings are expected to encompass a wide range of topics, including the Gaza conflict, the Ukraine war, and the escalating tensions in the South China Sea. The US is providing military aid to Israel and Ukraine, while China has drawn closer to Russia since the start of the Ukraine conflict in February 2022 and has called for a ceasefire in the Gaza situation. Unnamed officials declared that the US would urge China to adopt a more constructive approach on both of these fronts.

Wang recently had phone discussions with the foreign ministers of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, expressing sadness at the suffering endured by civilians due to the conflict and reaffirming China’s call for a ceasefire and support for a two-state solution. Washington places importance on China’s ability to influence Iran, and Blinken urged Wang during his recent Middle East visit to use China’s influence in the region to prevent the conflict from escalating.

Wang’s trip comes just ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco, where there are expectations that Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping might have a meeting. However, US officials did not confirm this meeting, nor did they specify if Wang’s visit was intended to pave the way for such an encounter. Instead, Wang’s trip was described as a response to Blinken’s visit to Beijing. Beijing has yet to confirm whether President Xi will attend the annual APEC summit in San Francisco.

US-China relations have been deteriorating since 2018 due to various issues, including trade, the situation in Xinjiang, the militarization of the South China Sea, mounting pressure on Taiwan, and the origins of COVID-19. The last meeting between Biden and Xi occurred in November 2022 on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Indonesia. At that time, they agreed to restart talks, establish work groups on specific issues, and expand people-to-people exchanges. Territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas are also expected to be discussed, with Washington expressing deep concern over China’s destabilising actions in the South China Sea. Last week, the Philippines, a key US ally, accused Chinese coastguard vessels of intentionally colliding with their vessels on a resupply mission at Second Thomas Shoal, marking the most serious incident this year. Beijing claims the shoal as its territory, even though it falls within Manila’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

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