US, China agree to maintain communication as officials meet

Top officials from the United States and China have agreed to maintain communication as they met in the Austrian capital, the White House says.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, held “candid, substantive and constructive discussions” in Vienna on Wednesday and Thursday, the White House said in a statement.“The two sides agreed to maintain this important strategic channel of communication to advance these objectives,” it said.

The talks were held as both countries are seeking to navigate spiking tensions over a range of issues, including trade, the status of Taiwan, China’s claims in the South China Sea and an ongoing US push against growing Chinese influence in the Pacific.

Top US officials have said President Joe Biden’s administration is pursuing competition with China but does not want it to veer into conflict. Beijing has said it wants to stabilise rocky relations with Washington.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently said he hopes to reschedule a trip to China that was postponed in February after a row over an alleged Chinese spy balloon that was shot down over the US. China has denied the balloon was used for surveillance.

The latest diplomatic flurry could also foreshadow a potential meeting between Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, although the US president on Wednesday said there had been no progress on that front.

The two leaders met in November ahead of a G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.

On Thursday, the White House said Sullivan and Wang had discussed a range of topics, including “cross-Strait issues”, a reference to rising tensions over Taiwan, which China claims as part of its own territory.

Beijing has repeatedly responded with anger to Washington’s support for Taiwan, deploying military assets that have stoked fears of a larger escalation.Sullivan and Wang also discussed “global and regional security issues” as well as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration said.

The US has warned against growing ties between China and Russia, including the potential of Beijing sending direct aid to Moscow for its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Beijing has denied it favours either side, maintaining it wants to be a peacebroker in the conflict.

Washington has made countering Beijing’s growing influence a top foreign policy priority and has sought to shore up support in the Pacific region to counter what it calls China’s growing commercial, political and military assertiveness.

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