US and Chinese diplomats trade barbs at first meeting in Alaska

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dpa/GNA – Top US and Chinese diplomats traded barbs at a high-level meeting in Alaska on Thursday, their first since US President Joe Biden took office in January.

New US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi for talks that were more combative than initially expected.

The US-Chinese relationship would be competitive if necessary, cooperative if possible, and hostile if need be, Blinken said in blunt opening remarks. China’s actions threatened global stability, he warned.

China returned the accusatory tone and rejected any interference in internal affairs, as video from the opening of the talks showed.

“It is important for our two countries that we conduct our affairs well instead of shifting the blame on someone else in the world,” Yang asserted, according to a translation.

He then shifted to speak of US internal affairs: “It is a fact that there are many human rights problems in the United States,” Yang said, referring to last year’s Black Lives Matter protests against racism and police violence.

Blinken for his part said the US was concerned about the human rights situation in Hong Kong and in Xinjiang province, which is home to the Uighur ethnic minority.

Blinken accused China of being responsible for cyberattacks and of blackmailing US allies with economic pressure. He also criticized China’s stance on Taiwan. The mainland asserts that the self-ruled island is part of China.

Earlier, the US secretary of state had stated that the United States intends to defend the “rules-based order” without which there would be a “much more violent world.”

On the matters of Chinese activities in places like Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, he asserted that these are not merely internal matters.

The meeting then went on behind closed doors. The talks are to continue on Friday.

After the end of the first day of the scheduled two days of talks, China’s state news agency Xinhua quoted from a background discussion with the Chinese delegation.

Chinese officials said that China had been invited to a “strategic dialogue” in Anchorage. They charged however that the US, in opening remarks, had inappropriately “attacked” the Chinese side and provoked disputes. This did not show hospitality, nor did it follow diplomatic etiquette.

Ahead of the meeting with the Chinese diplomats Biden’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki had said the focus would be on “having a frank discussion, raising issues where we have concerns, and of course, looking for ways and places where we can work together.”

Under the Trump administration, ties between China and the US reached their lowest level since diplomatic relations were established in 1979. Beijing is offering the new US administration a fresh start, but with clear preconditions, analysts say.

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