By Kevin Liptak, CNN
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with the Chinese foreign minister in Luxembourg on Monday for a “frank, substantive and productive discussion” in a tense moment between their two countries, according to the White House.
The talks, which had not been announced in advance, lasted four and a half hours. They came as a potential precursor to a meeting between President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, which the White House says is possible in the coming months.
Disagreements over human rights, Taiwan, trade and China’s military expansion have caused strained relations between Washington and Beijing. Biden’s vow last month to intervene militarily if China invaded self-governing Taiwan only made matters worse.
Biden is also considering whether to remove some tariffs on China that were imposed by former President Donald Trump in an effort to control inflation in the United States.
After Sullivan’s meeting with Yang Jiechi, a senior US administration official said he expected to “see more potential meetings in the coming months”, although he said nothing was currently planned. between Biden and Xi.
Sullivan’s meeting with Yang came after a phone call last month ahead of Biden’s first visit to Asia. The White House has held a number of engagements over the past few weeks to demonstrate its commitment to the Asia-Pacific, including welcoming Southeast Asian leaders to the White House.
The moves were seen as an attempt to counter China’s influence in the region, which has been a key driver of Biden’s focus on Asia.
“Mr. Sullivan emphasized the importance of maintaining open lines of communication to manage competition between our two countries,” the White House said in a report of Monday’s meeting.
Previous meetings between Sullivan and Yang predated phone calls between Biden and Xi, who have yet to meet in person since Biden took office. They last spoke in March for 110 minutes when Biden sought to dissuade Xi from providing support to Russia in its war in Ukraine.
This issue was discussed in Luxembourg on Monday, along with recent provocations by North Korea and the detention of Americans in China. Sullivan said Americans subject to exit bans were a “personal priority” for him and Biden.
He also expressed concern over China’s recent veto of a United Nations Security Council resolution regarding North Korea. And he stressed “the importance of keeping lines of communication open at all levels.”
The U.S. goal in engaging China is “to make sure each side understands the intentions of the other, understands the priorities,” the official said. “This is essential to avoid potential communication errors, misinterpretations and reduce risk. I think all of those things are essential to, you know, managing the relationship in a healthy and responsible way.
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