WASHINGTON • US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will visit China next week, the State Department said, as the world's two largest economies navigate a deeply troubled bilateral relationship.
Ms Sherman, the State Department's second-ranked official, will meet Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other officials in the city of Tianjin on Sunday and Monday. Her visit will come after visits to Japan, South Korea and Mongolia as part of her second visit to Asia in less than two months. She will also visit Oman next Tuesday.
The China talks will be "part of ongoing US efforts to hold candid exchanges... to advance US interests and values and responsibly manage the relationship", the US State Department said. Referring to China's official name, People's Republic of China (PRC), it said Ms Sherman would "discuss areas where we have serious concerns about PRC actions, as well as where our interests align".
Ms Sherman's China visit has been anticipated in foreign policy circles, but was not announced along with the rest of her trip last week. It could help set the stage for further exchanges and a potential meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping later this year, possibly on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Italy in late October.
Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reported last week that China planned for foreign vice-minister Xie Feng to meet Ms Sherman, but the two sides were haggling over protocol details. "Our senior level engagement is a precious resource, so we wanted to make sure we were going to have substantive and constructive exchanges with senior PRC officials," a senior US administration official told reporters. "That's exactly what we believe we're going to be getting with this meeting we're going to have with Wang Yi."
North Korea, climate change and Iran are issues of shared concern she will hope to make progress on in China, despite a fractious relationship that has plunged to their worst level in decades. Mr Biden has ramped up sanctions on China over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
In April, Mr Biden's climate envoy John Kerry visited Shanghai, making him the most senior US official to visit China during the Biden administration.
But otherwise, the two sides have had little in the way of high-level face-to-face contact since a combative first diplomatic meeting in Alaska.