The United States has formally invited China's newly reappointed foreign minister, Wang Yi, to Washington, State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said on Tuesday, after Wang's predecessor was abruptly removed from his post by Beijing.
China reappointed veteran diplomat Wang as foreign minister last week, replacing former rising star Qin Gang, who has not been seen for more than month — a mysterious absence after just seven months in the job that has raised questions about transparency.
The ministry has only said Qin was off work for unspecified health reasons.
The invitation was extended on Monday during a meeting at the State Department between U.S. Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink and Yang Tao, director-general of the Department of North American and Oceanian Affairs at China's Foreign Ministry, Miller said in a news briefing.
"In the meeting yesterday, we extended the invitation that had previously been made to Foreign Minister Qin Gang and made clear that invitation did transfer over," Miller said.
He did not say if the Chinese side had accepted the invitation but added that this was Washington's expectation.
"We certainly expect that it is something that they would accept and is a trip that we expect to happen, but we have not yet scheduled a date," Miller said.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment when asked about the invitation.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Qin on June 18, on the first visit by America's top diplomat to China in five years. The U.S. State Department said then they held "candid, substantive and constructive" talks, and Blinken invited Qin to Washington to continue discussions.
Qin, 57, a former aide to President Xi Jinping and envoy to the United States, took over the ministry in December but has not been seen in public since June 25 when he met visiting diplomats in Beijing.
The Foreign Ministry's brief explanation that this was due to health reasons was later excised from official transcripts.
Qin's successor, Wang, 69, was also his predecessor, holding the post from 2013-2022 as ties frayed with rival superpower the United States to a point Beijing described as an all-time low.
Blinken subsequently met Wang on the sidelines of a regional meeting in Jakarta in Qin's absence.