Blinken Meets Chinese and Japanese Diplomats, Seeks Stability as Taiwan Voters Head to the Polls

AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, listens as Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa, right, speaks during their meeting at the State Department in Washington, Friday, Jan. 12, 2024.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken met a senior Chinese diplomat on Friday, as the Biden administration seeks to mitigate tensions over Taiwan as the island holds its presidential election.

Blinken sat down with Liu Jianchao, the Chinese Communist Party’s international minister. Hours later, he met with Yoko Kamikawa, the foreign minister of Japan, one of the United States’ strongest allies in Asia.

The Biden administration is seeking to keep down tensions in the Taiwan Strait if the governing Democratic Progressive Party, known to lean toward independence, should prevail in Saturday’s election. Beijing, which considers Taiwan to be part of Chinese territory, has suggested to voters that they could be choosing between peace and war.

The U.S. is not supporting any candidate in Taiwan’s presidential election and plans to send an unofficial delegation to the island shortly after the election.

In addition to Taiwan, Blinken and Kamikawa discussed the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East and preparation for a state visit by Japan’s prime minister to the U.S., possibly in early March, according to the news site Japan Today.

“As the world reaches a turning point, the role of the Japan-U.S. alliance in dealing with various issues has never been greater,” Kamikawa said, as reported by Japan Today.

Blinken told Kamikawa that the alliance is “truly the cornerstone of peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific,” according to a State Department transcript.

Liu’s meeting with Blinken was part of a U.S. trip that took the veteran Chinese diplomat to New York earlier this week when he said Beijing is serious about the U.S. statements not to support Taiwan’s independence. “And we hope that the U.S. side will honor this commitment,” Liu told the Council on Foreign Relations.

“For China, the Taiwan question is at the very core of the core interests. It’s the red line that mustn’t be crossed,” said Liu, who is likely to become China’s next foreign minister when the Chinese congress convenes in March.

Beijing has slammed Washington for supplying the island with weapons that it says could embolden those seeking Taiwan’s independence. The U.S. has a security pact with Taiwan to protect the island from any armed attack from the mainland, and any military conflict in the Taiwan Strait could draw in the U.S.

Liu, when speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations, said Beijing does not wish to have a war.

“China remains firm in pursuing an independent foreign policy of peace and is committed to peaceful development,” Liu said. “President Xi Jinping reiterated during his recent visit to the United States that China will not fight a cold war or a hot war with anyone.”

Liu assured his audience that China does not seek to alter the world order.

“China does not seek to change the current international order, still less reinvent the wheel by creating a new international order,” Liu said. “We are one of the builders of the current world order and have benefited from it.”

Beijing’s goal, Liu said, is to “deliver a better life for the Chinese people.”

“So we don’t really have any hidden agenda. Overtaking the United States is not our goal,” he said.

Liu signaled that Beijing could move away from its “wolf-warrior” diplomacy that critics say has alienated China from the West.

“I think that the fundamental goal of China’s diplomats would be to contribute their efforts in making sure that China’s relations with other countries be warm and cooperative,” Liu said. “And by that, we mean that we try to create a favorable international environment for China’s modernization.”