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Blinken: trip to China aims at ‘avoiding miscalculations’

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that his coming visit to China aims to open up better communications “by addressing misperceptions and avoiding miscalculations.”

“Intense competition requires sustained diplomacy to ensure that competition does not veer into confrontation or conflict,” Blinken said.

“That is what the world expects of both the United States and China.”

Blinken will hold talks Sunday and Monday in Beijing on the first trip by a top US diplomat in nearly five years.

The trip was rescheduled after the United States cancelled a planned Beijing visit by Blinken in February after Washington said it detected — and later shot down — a Chinese spy balloon.

The first goal of the trip to China, Blinken said in a press conference, is “to establish open and empowered communications, so that our two countries responsibly manage our relationship.”

He said the aim was also to set the record clear on US interests and values, and to explore areas of possible cooperation, including on global economic stability, fighting drug trafficking, and climate and health issues.

He added he would raise the issue of US citizens detained by China.

China has detained a number of US citizens on various charges, including Kai Li, a businessman accused of spying in 2016, and David Lin, an America pastor held since 2006.

Blinken was speaking in a joint press conference with visiting Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

Balakrishnan said the Asian region had its eye on US-China relations, calling it “the challenge of the century.”

“This is a very important and critical moment, not just for the United States and China,” he said.

“The rest of the world will be watching. So we hope and believe that you will be able to manage the differences,” he said.

– ‘Irresponsible bullying’ –

The visit comes as relations between the two superpowers have been particularly strained, on the issue of Taiwan, on China’s ambitions to expand its political and security influence around the globe, and on economic relations.

Washington officials recently said China has set up intelligence operations in Cuba, just off the southeastern US coast.

And on Thursday a major US cybersecurity firm, Mandiant, said online attackers with clear links to China are behind a vast cyber espionage campaign targeting US government agencies.

Earlier this week Daniel Kritenbrink, the top State Department official for East Asia, stressed that the United States was “realistic” about what Blinken could achieve in China.

“We’re not going to Beijing with the intent of having some sort of breakthrough or transformation,” Kritenbrink told reporters.

In Beijing Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the United States needs to work together with China to improve relations, Xinhua reported.

“The United States views China as its ‘primary rival’ and ‘the most consequential geopolitical challenge.’ This is a major strategic misjudgement,” said Wang in a press briefing.

He stressed that competition was not a zero-sum game and that US demands should not deprive China of its legitimate right to development.

“This is not ‘responsible competition,’ but irresponsible bullying. It will only push the two countries towards confrontation and create a divided world,” said Wang.

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©️ Agence France-Presse

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