U.S., China end high-level talks U.S.: We came in sober, we left sober

Secretary of State Blinken and National Security Adviser Sullivan meet with the media in Alaska after closed-door talks with top Chinese foreign affairs officials, March 19, 2021

The United States and China wrapped up their first face-to-face high-level talks in Alaska since the Biden administration on Friday (March 19). Although the meeting ended inconclusively, U.S. Secretary of State John Blinken said after the meeting that the U.S. side met the two main objectives of holding the dialogue, namely to make clear to the Chinese side the serious concerns of the United States and its allies and partners about China’s behavior, while clearly articulating U.S. policy, priorities and worldview. U.S. National Security Adviser Sullivan said the U.S. side maintained a clear understanding before and after the meeting and will decide its next steps based on the talks and after consulting with allies and partners.

The first formal meeting between the U.S. and China since President Biden took office came to a close Friday in Anchorage. Blinken and Sullivan met for several hours over two days with Yang Jiechi, a member of the Chinese Communist Party‘s Political Bureau in charge of foreign affairs, and Wang Yi, China’s state councilor and foreign minister.

On Thursday, before the substantive talks began, the two sides exchanged heated words in an opening session filmed by the media, highlighting the differences between the two powers. The two sides did not issue a joint statement after Friday’s talks. However, U.S. officials told the media before the meeting that there would be no joint statement at the talks.

The two sides did not hold a joint press conference after the talks. Secretary of State Blinken and National Security Adviser Sullivan meet briefly with the media.

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken: Frank Conversation with China on Broad Agenda

Secretary Blinken tells the media that before holding the dialogue, the U.S. was well aware that the two sides have fundamental differences in a number of areas, including China’s behavior in Xinjiang, toward Hong Kong, Tibet and, increasingly, Taiwan, and actions taken in cyberspace.

He said he was not surprised by the Chinese side’s tough response.

“Not surprisingly, when we raised these issues clearly and directly, we got a resistant response, but we were also able to have many hours of very frank conversations about a broad agenda,” Blinken said.

The top U.S. diplomat said, “On the economy, on trade, on technology, we said to our counterparts that we are considering these topics and consulting closely with Congress and with our allies and partners, and we will move forward in a way that fully protects and advances the interests of our workers and our businesses.”

In addition to conversations on topics where there are fundamental differences, the two sides also discussed areas where they can work together.

Blinken said, “On Iran, on North Korea, on Afghanistan, on climate, we have intersecting interests.”

Blinken: U.S. side achieved its goal

Although the talks did not achieve any breakthroughs, as was widely expected, Blinken said the U.S. side met two of its objectives in holding the meeting.

“First, we wanted to tell them of our serious concerns about the range of actions that China has taken and demonstrated, concerns that our allies and partners share. We did that. We also wanted to clearly articulate our own policies, priorities and worldview. And we have done that,” Blinken said.

Sullivan: Will judge situation, decide next step after consulting with allies

Blinken was meeting with Chinese officials in Alaska at the end of a visit to Asian allies Japan and South Korea. It was his first trip abroad since becoming secretary of state.

U.S. National Security Adviser Sullivan said the U.S. will decide the next steps based on the talks and after consultations with allies and partners.

“We came in with a clear conscience and left with a clear conscience. We will return to Washington to judge the situation we find ourselves in. We will continue to consult with our allies and partners in the future about the next steps to be taken.”

He also said the U.S. will continue to work with China through normal diplomatic channels on a range of issues from Iran to Afghanistan.

Yang Jiechi, a member of the Communist Party’s Politburo, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi were interviewed by Chinese official media at the end of the talks. Yang Jiechi said the two sides had a frank and constructive exchange and that the dialogue was useful, but the two sides still have significant differences on a number of issues.

Meanwhile, the State Department announced Friday that Secretary of State Blinken will travel to the Belgian capital of Brussels from March 22 to 25 to attend a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, engage with European Union leaders and meet with Belgian officials. The State Department said Blinken will consult with EU partners on how to address a range of challenges shared by the U.S. and Europe, including China and Russia.