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U.S., China delegations to hold top-level meeting next week after first diplomatic trip

The secretary of state and national security adviser will meet with Chinese officials in Alaska on return home from a U.S. diplomatic trip to Japan and South Korea.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks on foreign policy at the State Department on March 3.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / Pool via AP

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan will meet their Chinese counterparts in Alaska next week, the State Department announced Wednesday. The meeting will take place following a trip to South Korea and Japan by Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin — announced separately Wednesday — aimed at strengthening alliances with America’s closest partners in Asia.

On the return from that trip, the U.S. delegation will meet with senior Chinese officials Yang Jiechi, director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, and Wang Yi, the state councilor, “to discuss a range of issues, including those we disagree on,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

The first in-person senior-level meeting between the two countries since President Joe Biden took office comes at a time of high tension between the two countries.

Since taking office, the Biden administration has described China as the "biggest geopolitical test" facing the U.S. and "the only country with the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to seriously challenge the stable and open international system." The White House has followed the Trump administration's rhetoric in criticizing China's leadership for their treatment of Hong Kong, reinforced U.S. support for Taiwan and labeled human rights abuses against the Uyghur population in Xinjiang as genocide.

But the administration has also indicated there is room for cooperation on issues like climate change.

The first planned overseas trip for Cabinet-level officials to America’s closest partners in Asia prior to meeting with Chinese officials is meant to strengthen the relationships with traditional U.S. allies

In a tweet following the State Department’s announcement of the trip, Blinken said he looked forward to the visits to "promote peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and around the world."

While in Tokyo and Seoul, Blinken and Austin will meet with their Japanese and South Korean counterparts in what is known as a “2+2” dialogue focused on a “range of bilateral and global issues.”

Austin will also travel to India after the meetings to meet with senior officials, according to the Pentagon.

The dual trip announcement for Blinken and Austin to visit U.S. allies in Asia comes as the White House prepares for a virtual meeting between Biden and the leaders of Japan, India and Australia known as the “Quad,” a group that often stands as a counter to the influence of Beijing.

The commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Adm. Philip Davidson, issued a stark warning to lawmakers on Tuesday about the nature of the threat posed by China.

“We are accumulating risk that may embolden China to unilaterally change the status quo before our forces may be able to deliver an effective response,” Davidson said during a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday.

Davidson also said China could overtake U.S. dominance in global affairs and assume a world leadership role by 2050.

"I worry that they're [China] accelerating their ambitions to supplant the United States and our leadership role in the rules-based international order," he said.