WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. official said on Tuesday that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit China for discussions in the next weeks, months after he postponed a trip due to a possible Chinese surveillance balloon that crossed the country.
On the timeframe, the official gave no more details.
Any intentions were not confirmed by the State Department. Deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said, “We have no trip for the Secretary to announce; as we’ve stated before, the visit to the People’s Republic of China will be rescheduled when circumstances allow.
The scheduled visit was initially reported by Bloomberg News.
When the balloon passed over important military locations before being shot down by American forces, the senior U.S. official postponed a trip to Beijing that was scheduled for February.
The balloon spent a week circling above North America, with Beijing denying that it was a Chinese surveillance plane.
The administration of President Joe Biden has worked to increase interaction with China as relations between the world’s two biggest economies have worsened over problems ranging from military activities in the South China Sea to Taiwan’s democratically run government.
However, others have questioned American outreach to China, claiming that previous engagement with Beijing did not result in a change in Beijing’s behaviour.
Daniel Kritenbrink, the chief representative of the State Department for East Asia, visited Beijing last week to meet with Chinese colleagues. last trip was seen as a preliminary to a potential Blinken visit. The two sides established a positive tone and decided to keep the channels of communication open.
Kritenbrink said, “We’ll see,” when asked by reporters in Beijing whether Blinken will come soon. He said that the United States was “working hard” to control the situation with China.
The arrival of Kritenbrink on June 4 fell on the 34th anniversary of the Chinese military crackdown on protests in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, which rights organisations claim resulted in the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of people.
However, several Republican senators and Tiananmen survivors criticised the timing, suggesting that the U.S. was softening its stance because it was ready to conduct negotiations with Chinese officials. The Biden administration rejected any significance behind the date of his trip.
In an effort to minimise harm to the U.S.-China relationship after the balloon intrusion, Reuters reported in May that the State Department has postponed human rights-related penalties, export restrictions, and other sensitive actions.