Biden admin: Anchorage meeting part of ‘broader strategic conversation’ with China

Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 5:26 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Senior Biden administration officials stressed that the Thursday meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and their Chinese counterparts Wang Yi and Yang Jiechi is part of their larger approach to formulating their strategy toward China and the region, describing it as “a broader strategic conversation” rather than a meeting meant to result in specific deliverables.

“The conversations in Anchorage are very much intended as an initial discussion to understand […] our interests, intentions and priorities, and frankly to get a bit of an understanding of where the Chinese are at,” one senior administration official said on a call with reporters Tuesday. “We think it’s really important that our Chinese interlocutors hear from Secretary Blinken and from National Security Advisor Sullivan directly about our priorities and about our intentions.”

“We know that sometimes there is a sense, potentially a perception, or maybe it’s a hope in Beijing, that our public message is somehow different than our private message and we think it’s really important that we dispel that idea very early, and that we’re very clear with delivering the same messages in private that you have heard from us in public,” this official said.

The official said that this is “a one-off meeting” and “not the resumption of a particular dialogue mechanism or the beginning of a dialogue process.” They also said there would not be a joint statement that comes out of the meeting.

A second senior administration official noted that “Beijing has been talking about its desire to change the tone of the relationship.”

“And of course, we’re going to be looking at deeds not words on that front, and we’re of course coming to these discussions with a very clear-eyed view about the PRC’s pretty, pretty poor track record of keeping its promises,” the official said.

The first senior official pointed to Beijing’s economic coercion of Australia as a specific area that the Biden administration wants to see China change course “before we can take some substantial steps forward in the relationship.”

This official also said that they intend to raise concerns about China’s actions in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and across the Taiwan Strait and economic and cyber issues. They would not say which issues they felt are most critical, telling reporters they “don’t want to give the Chinese [their] whole playbook in advance.”

Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican, told Alaska’s News Source’s Washington, D.C. reporter Peter Zampa that he says the meeting taking place in Anchorage shows the strategic importance of Alaska in the Pacific.

“The fact that they chose Alaska, once again highlights our strategic importance for America, really as a crossroads for the Asia-Pacific and the Arctic,” Sullivan said.

The senator said he hoped that the Biden administration would take up topics of energy production and export, but that he wasn’t sure it would make it onto the agenda given humanitarian and economic concerns.

“I’ve been pressing the administration, not just to show strength, but to highlight what we care about in terms of American values,” Sullivan said.

He said human rights and political liberty are high priority, and cited the economic sanctions against Australia, a close U.S. ally, the Chinese treatment of the Uyghur people, and a deadly border conflict on the China-India border as issues of concern.

“These are all areas that I’ve encouraged the Biden administration to not just raise, but to put at the top of the agenda, and also to make sure the Chinese know that we are united on this,” Sullivan said.

“From the briefings I’ve received from the White House, they intend to do that,” Sullivan said. “The military and energy issues, I’m not sure they’re going to raise those. I certainly hope they will as well.”

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