A US source said on Tuesday that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit to China for discussions in the coming weeks, months after he canceled a scheduled trip over a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that floated across the US.
The official made no mention of time.
No intentions have been confirmed by the State Department. “We have no travel for the Secretary to announce; as we’ve previously stated, the visit to the People’s Republic of China will be rescheduled when conditions allow,” said deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel.
Bloomberg News first reported the planned visit.
The top U.S. diplomat postponed a visit to Beijing in February after the balloon flew over sensitive military sites before being shot down by the U.S. military.
The balloon, which Beijing denies was a government spy vessel, spent a week flying over the United States and Canada.
President Joe Biden’s administration has pushed to boost engagement with China as ties between the world’s two largest economies have deteriorated over issues ranging from democratically governed Taiwan, which China claims as its own, to military activity in the South China Sea.
But critics have questioned U.S. overtures to China, arguing that past decades of engagement have failed to change Beijing’s behavior.
The State Department’s top official for East Asia, Daniel Kritenbrink, was in Beijing this week for talks with Chinese counterparts, a visit seen as a step toward a possible Blinken trip. The two sides struck an upbeat tone, agreeing to maintain communication lines.
Asked by reporters in Beijing if Blinken would visit soon, Kritenbrink said: “we’ll see,”. The United States was “working hard” to manage the relationship with China, he said.
Kritenbrink’s arrival on June 4 coincided with the 34th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown by Chinese troops on demonstrators in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that rights groups say killed hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters.
The Biden administration dismissed any significance behind the date of his arrival, but some Republican lawmakers and Tiananmen survivors criticized the timing, arguing U.S. eagerness to hold talks with Chinese officials was watering down U.S. positions.
Reuters reported in May that the State Department delayed human rights-related sanctions, export controls and other sensitive action to try to limit damage to the U.S.-China relationship after the balloon incursion.