US Secretary of State Blinken set to travel to China for talks in coming weeks

Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to visit China in the coming weeks for talks with top officials, possibly including President Xi Jinping, people familiar with the matter said, as the US looks to resume high-level communication despite continued tensions.

Blinken had planned to visit Beijing in February but scrapped the trip after the US identified what it said was a Chinese spy balloon crossing over the continental US.

The exact timing for Blinken’s visit is still fluid, according to the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations.

A State Department spokesman said the agency had no travel to announce and that Blinken’s previously scrapped visit would take place when conditions allow.

If it takes place, the visit would be part of President Joe Biden’s effort to restore some normalcy to a relationship that continues to be roiled by tense military encounters, punitive economic measures and accusations from both sides that the other is jeopardizing global stability.

On Monday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby warned of a “growing aggressiveness by China after interceptions of a US ship and surveillance aircraft in recent weeks. “It won’t be long before somebody gets hurt,” Kirby said. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin shot back with criticism that the US is “sending warships halfway around the world to China’s doorstep in a provocative way.”

At the same time, Kirby said the two sides were making progress in opening other channels towards setting up visits for US Cabinet secretaries.

While China rebuffed US efforts to arrange a meeting between the two countries’ defense ministers at a forum in Singapore last week, high-level contact has resumed in other areas. Daniel Kritenbrink, the top US State Department official for Asia, had “candid talks” with Chinese officials on Monday.

His trip followed a visit by CIA Director William Burns in May, while top commerce and trade officials have also met recently.

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