The United States and China are looking to move past the balloon incident to stabilize relations

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s national security adviser met with a top Chinese diplomat this week, a senior U.S. official said, and both sides recognized the need to move beyond an alleged spy balloon incident that stalled relations between the two superpowers. Thursday.

The official said the White House hopes the eight-hour talks in Vienna on Wednesday and Thursday between US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi will pave the way for more contacts between the world’s two largest economies.

China’s embassy in Washington said the two sides had “frank, in-depth, substantive and constructive discussions … on removing obstacles in Sino-US relations and stabilizing relations from deterioration.”

The US official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said Sullivan and Wang did not discuss when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s rescheduled visit to Beijing, but said the White House expected the two sides to continue to engage in the upcoming visit. Months.

Biden had been seeking a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping but the official had no update on the effort.

Blinken canceled a trip to Beijing scheduled for February after the United States shot down a Chinese balloon that had flown over sensitive military sites, plunging the adversaries into a diplomatic crisis.

Asked what was discussed about the incident, the official replied: “I think both sides realized that this unfortunate incident led to a period of pause in the engagement. We are now seeking to move beyond that, and re-establish some regular and normal channels of communication.”

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The official said the US side has made clear its position on the issue of sovereignty infringement, but it is “trying to look forward from here on out” and looking for issues where China and the US can work together.

Keep an open channel of communication

Relations between the US and China have been at a low point over issues ranging from accusations of Chinese espionage and human rights abuses to US efforts to build military alliances to curb China’s ambitions toward Taiwan and the Pacific.

The official said the two sides agreed to maintain the channel of communication between Sullivan and Wang, and that Sullivan stressed that Washington did not seek conflict or confrontation.

Sullivan raised concerns about US citizens being held in China and stressed that this was a personal priority for Biden. It also raised concerns about the possibility of Chinese military assistance to Russia in Ukraine.

An earlier White House statement said the talks sought to build on Biden and Xi’s meeting in Indonesia in November.

The Vienna meeting came ahead of an expected visit to Asia by Biden starting with the G7 summit in Japan from May 19-21 that is expected to seek closer alignment of the group’s approach to China.

Blinken’s canceled trip was meant to help mend relations after an earlier split over then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, the self-governing island that China claims as its own.

The United States has expressed its eagerness to reschedule Blinken’s visit and arrange other high-level meetings as part of an effort to prevent relations from spiraling into conflict.

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Blinken met Wang Yi at the Munich Security Conference after the balloon incident, but this did not calm tensions.

Communication between the US National Security Adviser and China’s top foreign affairs official has historically been important and today appears to be “almost the only significant channel still working,” said Daniel Russell, the top US diplomat for East Asia in the Obama administration.

He said the avoidance of the harmful public spat seen in the past was encouraging, but it did not necessarily mean that relations were on the mend.

“Both sides send stern – and sometimes angry – messages, but these meetings create the possibility that they may find common ground that could help stabilize a dangerously volatile relationship,” he said.

(Reporting by Susan Heavy). Edited by Paul Grant

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