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US, China top diplomats meet amid Taiwan tensions

September 23, 2022

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met on the sidelines of the UN summit in New York.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi attend a meeting in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi during their last meeting in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of BaliImage: Stefani Reynolds/AP/picture alliance

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks Friday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, currently underway in New York.

The diplomats shook hands and exchanged pleasantries before they sat down with aides on the sidelines of the summit without taking questions from reporters. 

The two last met in July in Bali, Indonesia, where Blinken pressured China over its position on Russia's war in Ukraine.

Ahead of sitting down with Wang, Blinken also met with his counterparts from Australia, Japan and India, leaders from the the so-called Quad grouping, which in recent years has met more frequently for in-person talks on security issues in the Indo-Pacific. 

Beijing see the Quad as a strategy by Washington to surround China with US allies.

Blinken asks Wang Yi for 'peace and stability' in Taiwan Strait

In a statement released after Blinken sat down with Wang, the US State Department said the US wants to keep channels of communication open with China, and reiterated that Washington is committed to the 'One China' policy

Blinken stressed that "preserving peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait" is critical to regional and global security, said State Department spokesperson, Ned Price. 

The top diplomat also condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and warned China about "implications" if it provided support to Moscow in the ongoing war against Ukraine.

He also stressed the US was open to communicating with China where interests aligned.

US sending "very wrong, dangerous signals" on Taiwan, says China

Washington is sending "very wrong, dangerous signals" on Taiwan, the Chinese Foreign Minister said during the talks with his US counterpart, Reuters reported, citing a read out from Wang's ministry. 

He added that the more rife Taiwan independence activities are, the less likely a peaceful settlement will be, the news agency said. 

The United States is attempting to undermine Beijing's sovereignty and territorial integrity over Taiwan, Wang stressed, according to the report.

Maintaining communication, despite Taiwan tension 

A statement from the US State Department said that the meeting is a part of Washington's ongoing efforts to "maintain open lines of communication and manage competition responsibly" with Beijing. 

Tensions between the two nations soared following a visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month and President Joe Biden's explicit pledge to defend the self-ruled island that China claims as its territory.

Earlier this week, Biden had said that US forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, irking Beijing.

China responded by saying that Washington should not send the "wrong signals" pertaining to Taiwanese "independence."

This week Wang also met former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger — the man known for being the architect of US relations with communist China.

The Chinese foreign minister said in the meeting that a "peaceful reunification" with Taiwan was Beijing's aspiration.

But he added that the possibility of peaceful resolution was diminished by ever more "rampant" Taiwanese independence sentiment.

China 'seems to be preparing for a war against Taiwan'

Shortly before his talks with Blinken, Wang once again expressed anger over US support for the island.

"The Taiwan question is growing into the biggest risk in China-US relations. Should it be mishandled it is most likely to devastate bilateral ties," Wang said in a speech at the Asia Society, a US-based think tank.

"Just as the US will not allow Hawaii to be stripped away, China has the right to uphold the unification of the country," he added.

He also criticized the US decision to "allow" the Taiwan visit by Pelosi.

The talks between Blinken and Wang are expected to lay the groundwork for a expected meeting between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, which would be their first in-person encounter since Biden took office.

That meeting is likely to be held in Bali on the margins of a G20 summit in November.

dvv/ar (AFP, Reuters)