President Joe Biden met Friday with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in the White House, a meeting that was expected to lead to a sit-down with Chinese President Xi Jinping next month.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan were also present, according to administration spokesman John Kirby.
Biden “emphasized that both the United States and China need to manage competition in the relationship responsibly and maintain open lines of communication,” and he “underscored that the United States and China must work together to address global challenges.”
Wang, China's top diplomat, arrived in Washington on Thursday for meetings with senior U.S. officials on bilateral and regional security issues, ahead of a possible meeting between U.S. and Chinese leaders next month.
Blinken hosted Wang at the State Department for a working dinner after meetings earlier in the day. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan held talks with him Friday at Blair House near the White House.
Just before his two-hour meeting with Blinken on Thursday afternoon, Wang told reporters that "China and the United States need to have dialogue" that's "in-depth and comprehensive" so that they can reduce misunderstanding and "return to the track of healthy, stable and sustainable development."
"In China-U.S. relations, from time to time there will be some jarring voices," he said, adding "what is right and what is wrong is not determined by who has the strongest arm or a loud voice."
His remarks came a day after Biden said that China's global infrastructure push, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, has left its partners "dead in the noose."
Blinken met with President Xi in Beijing for 35 minutes on June 19 during a trip to stabilize fraught bilateral ties.
“This meeting is consistent with commitments by both sides to maintain this strategic channel of communication as part of ongoing efforts to responsibly manage the relationship,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
Senior officials from the Biden administration have previewed a range of issues, including Israel’s war with Hamas, Russia’s war on Ukraine, the fentanyl crisis, Taiwan, and a recent vessel collision in the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, congressional critics have urged China to release wrongfully detained American citizens and have condemned Chinese military behavior in the South China Sea.
“During its meetings with Wang Yi, the Biden administration should not fall for false promises but demand deliverables such as releasing Americans taken hostage in China, stopping the export of fentanyl precursors and halting its military expansionism in the Indo-Pacific,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul and Indo-Pacific subcommittee Chairwoman Young Kim said in a statement.
Roger Carstens, special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, is among the U.S. officials attending a meeting with Wang in a smaller setting.
Thursday, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told VOA that U.S. officials meeting with Chinese officials would continue to raise concerns about the fate of Americans wrongfully detained by China.
“I can assure you that we were working behind the scenes to try to secure their release as soon as possible,” Miller said during a briefing.
The Dui Hua Foundation, a San Francisco humanitarian organization that advocates for the release of political and religious prisoners, told VOA last July that it estimated up to 200 Americans were being arbitrarily detained in China, and that as many as 30 were subject to unlawful exit bans.
The United States has cautioned China against a military escalation in the Taiwan Strait. The Chinese military has been intensifying activities around Taiwan for months leading into the self-ruled democracy’s presidential election in January 2024.
Foxconn, the New Taipei City-based Fortune 500 company known for making Apple iPhones, recently underwent inspections of its mainland facilities by Chinese tax authorities.
The probe comes at a sensitive time, because Foxconn founder Terry Gou is seeking the presidency in Taiwan's election as an independent candidate. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has never ruled Taiwan but claims sovereignty over the self-ruled democracy.
Many analysts see China's probe as an attempt to force Gou out of the elections for fear that he will drain votes away from pro-Beijing candidates with a better chance of winning.
“We have deep confidence in Taiwan’s democratic process and believe it is for Taiwan voters to decide their next leader, free from outside interference,” Miller told reporters Thursday.
Washington has said it does not take sides in Taiwan's elections and is committed to the fair treatment of all candidates. U.S. policy on Taiwan “will remain the same, regardless of whichever party is in power,” Miller said.
This week, U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher told VOA Mandarin that “the most important topic” for Biden administration officials to bring up in its talks with Wang “is cross-strait deterrence."
“We need to send a strong message [to the CCP] that the increasing aggression against Taiwan will not be tolerated. We will help Taiwan defend itself,” said Gallagher, a Republican who chairs the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the U.S. and the CCP.
“China is having their own internal and external difficulties right now,” Biden said Wednesday during a press conference with visiting Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. “China's economic growth is stagnant compared to what it was. China has engaged in activities [of] intimidation” when dealing with other countries.
Biden also reiterated Washington’s support for the Philippines following a recent incident in which Chinese ships blocked and collided with two Philippine vessels near Second Thomas Shoal in the contested South China Sea.
“Just this past week, the PRC vessels acted dangerously and unlawfully as our Philippine friends conducted a routine resupply mission within their own exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea,” Biden said, using an initialism for the People’s Republic of China.
“The United States’ defense commitment to the Philippines is ironclad,” he said, adding that the U.S. is “not looking for a conflict” with China.
China asserts sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea, a resource-rich waterway with competing territorial claims from several other countries.
Blinken has called on China to use its influence over Iran to prevent the Israel-Hamas war from spreading but the U.S. expectation is said to be low amid key divisions with China. Washington said Tehran continues to support Hamas militants, who do not support a two-state solution.
“Hamas does not represent the vast majority of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip or anywhere else,” Biden said during the press conference. “Hamas is hiding behind Palestinian civilians.”
The United States, Israel, Egypt, the European Union, Japan and others have designated Hamas a terrorist organization.
China, like Russia, does not classify Hamas as a terrorist group but regards it as a legitimate representative of the Palestinians in Gaza.
Earlier this week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said the Beijing government hoped the U.S. would work with China to “properly manage differences and jointly bring the bilateral relations back to the track of sound and steady development.”
As Israel prepares a ground incursion into Gaza, Wang told Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen that “all countries have the right to self-defense, but it is important to observe international humanitarian law and protect civilians,” during a phone call on Monday.
Sullivan held talks with Wang in Malta September 16-17 following their meetings in Vienna May 10-11. The White House said they discussed issues including Russia’s war in Ukraine and also noted the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
On Thursday at the State Department, Wang did not answer a question by VOA when asked if China is willing to use its influence to persuade Iran from widening the war.
Yihua Lee from VOA Mandarin contributed to this report.