US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has held “candid” talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Malta this weekend, as the world’s two largest economies seek to stabilise troubled relations over trade and militarisation of the Pacific.
During the two days of talks on Saturday and Sunday, Wang brought up the issue of Taiwan – a self-governing, democratic island that China claims as its own territory – as a “red line that cannot be crossed in Sino-US relations”. The US has vowed to defend Taiwan against possible Chinese aggression.
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“The United States noted the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” said the White House in a statement, adding that the two officials “committed to maintain this strategic channel of communication and to pursue additional high-level engagement”.
A Chinese government statement on the Malta meeting largely echoed the US version, saying “the two sides conducted candid, substantive and constructive strategic communication”.
China has accused the US of weaponising tech and trade issues under the guise of national security while Washington has warned Beijing against its military ambitions in Taiwan and the Pacific. The US has forged security alliances in the Pacific to counter growing Chinese influence.
Sullivan’s meeting with Wang was the latest in a series of high-level discussions between US and Chinese officials that could lay the groundwork for a meeting of US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping later this year.
Sullivan last met Wang in the Austrian capital Vienna in May.
Global and regional security
Sullivan and Wang discussed the relationship between the two countries, global and regional security issues, Russia’s war in Ukraine and the Taiwan Strait, the White House statement said.
“The two sides committed to maintain this strategic channel of communication and to pursue additional high-level engagement and consultations in key areas between the United States and the People’s Republic of China in the coming months,” according to the statement.
Biden this month expressed disappointment that Xi skipped a summit of Group of 20 leaders in India, but said he would “get to see him”. The next likely opportunity for Biden to hold talks with Xi is an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November in San Francisco, California, the US.
US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen have travelled to China this year to ensure continued communication between the two countries amid tensions that flared after the US military shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon that travelled over the US.
Xi did not attend last weekend’s G20 summit in New Delhi and is not expected to be in New York for the United Nations General Assembly this month. Biden has said he hopes to soon meet with Xi. The two leaders have not spoken since they met for talks last November in Indonesia, according to the White House.