Biden official says US, China talking about 'near-term' senior-level meeting

Mr Joe Biden's administration has committed to reviewing elements of US policies towards China. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A senior Biden administration official said on Tuesday (March 9) that the United States was in talks with China about a possible near-term senior-level meeting between the two countries, after the White House said it had no finalised details to announce.

The South China Morning Post cited a source earlier on Tuesday as saying that the two countries were in discussions about a meeting in Alaska between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi. That would be the first such contact since US President Joe Biden took office in January.

The meeting under discussion would not be at the presidential level, "but at a very senior level", the Biden administration official told Reuters.

"We are in conversations about high-level dialogue with China. I just really can't say any more than that. But I would say in the near-term," the official said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, asked about the report on a possible meeting in Alaska, told a regular news briefing earlier that the administration was directly engaged with China, but that she did not have "any details finalised or confirmed at this point".

"We don't hold back about our concerns, but we also look for opportunities to work together," Ms Psaki said.

The State Department also did not offer any details.

Mr Biden's administration has committed to reviewing elements of US policies towards China, as the world's two largest economies navigate frosty relations that sank to their lowest depths in decades during the Trump administration.

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi last month called for a reset to relations under Mr Biden, but also urged Washington stop "smearing" the ruling Communist Party, and stop interfering in the country's internal affairs.

That prompted the State Department to accuse Beijing of trying to avert blame for its actions, including its treatment of Uighur Muslims in its western Xinjiang region, which the United States has designated as a "genocide".

The Biden administration also has signalled that it will maintain pressure on China over what it deems its "coercive and unfair" trade practices.

The US is due to hold its first ever leaders' meeting of the Quad group of countries, which includes the United States, India, Japan and Australia, on Friday, as it looks to boost its diplomacy in Asia to counter China's growing influence.

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