Two top Biden administration officials will meet with their Chinese counterparts next week in what will be the first meeting of officials from both countries since President Joe Biden took office in January, according to the State Department.
Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will be meeting with counterparts Wang Yi and Yang Jiechi in Alaska Anchorage, Alaska next week. The meeting will be held in Alaska to allow Blinken to attend the meeting on his way back from his trip to Japan and South Korea, a statement from the department said. It also allows Chinese officials to give the impression domestically that they are not traveling to the US, the officials said, since a visit to Washington or elsewhere in the US would garner more attention, according to two people familiar with the plans.
The meeting comes amid a deep strain in relations between the world’s two largest economies. Biden has prioritized economic and military issues, and mentioned potential areas of cooperation, including climate change and nuclear proliferation, while calling China out on a range of issues related to its nefarious use of technology, trade practices and human rights abuses.
Blinken told a congressional hearing that he will raise the Biden administration’s “many concerns” about China’s behavior.
“This is an important opportunity for us to lay out in very frank terms the many concerns that we have with Beijing’s actions and behavior that are challenging the security, prosperity, and the values of the United States and our partners and allies,” Blinken said during a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday afternoon.
The meeting was first reported by the South China Morning Post.
Both the State Department and the National Security Council did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Earlier Wednesday, the State Department announced Blinken will travel to Tokyo and Seoul for 2+2 discussions alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin next week.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price would not confirm that a meeting would take place when asked during a department briefing Tuesday.
“We don’t have any meetings to announce at this time, but we know what we have to do to engage China. We know what we will do to engage China. And we’ve started some of that important work,” he said.
The Biden administration is planning a sweeping review of the Trump administration’s posture toward China, including its crackdown on unfair trade practices and antagonistic military activities in Asia, all while pursuing what it calls a robust Indo-Pacific strategy, according to an administration official. On defense issues, the Department of Defense has also established a task force focused on US strategy toward China.
Last month, Biden spoke by telephone to China’s President Xi Jinping on a range of issues, and “underscored his fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan,” according to a senior administration official.
But several issues are weighing down the relationship at the onset of Biden’s presidency.
The Biden administration has endorsed a last-minute determination by the Trump administration that China has committed genocide in Xinjiang, sparking fury in Beijing, which denies the allegations.
It has also said that for the time being, the bruising tariffs put into place on Chinese goods by the Trump administration will remain.
But Biden administration officials also say they have found “deep problems” with the way in which the Trump administration had approached competition with China, and it is one of the issues they are now reviewing as part of a broader China policy.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.