The US State Department suggested on Tuesday that a trip to China by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman remained possible during her current tour of Asia if officials determine that a meeting between Sherman and her Chinese counterparts would be productive.
“Whether it is this travel or any travel abroad by a senior State Department official, we make announcements only once and, of course, if we determine that a visit has the potential to be substantive and constructive for our purposes,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a briefing in Washington.
“We‘ve been clear that when it comes to the [People’s Republic of China], we will engage when it’s in our interests to do so, and we do remain interested in doing so in a practical, substantive and direct manner. That certainly remains the case,” he said.
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Price declined to comment when asked what kind of response the State Department had received from Beijing concerning the idea of a meeting.
Sources said last week that China was planning for Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Xie Feng, a foreign vice-minister in charge of US affairs, to meet with Sherman, but that the American side was pushing for her to meet Chinese officials considered to be confidantes of President Xi Jinping.
Since then, US President Joe Biden and his administration have taken a number of measures that have angered Chinese officials, including a declaration on Monday – in tandem with Britain and the European Union – that Beijing was behind this year’s cyberespionage attack on the Microsoft Exchange email server.
The Biden administration also levelled more sanctions on Chinese officials in Hong Kong.
Sherman, who travelled to Japan on Sunday, will travel next to South Korea; the official State Department agenda has her winding up her trip in Mongolia next Sunday. A trip to China, if it happens, could take place immediately after that.
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