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The appeal comes a day after US and Chinese officials had their second face-to-face meeting since Joe Biden became US president.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says he is committed to building a constructive relationship with China and working on common challenges amid mounting tensions between the two largest economies in the world.
Austin made the statement during a speech in Singapore on Tuesday, a day after Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Feng had conversations in the northern city of Tianjin in China.
The second face-to-face meeting between US and Chinese diplomats since US President Joe Biden took office in January showed little progress, no specific results were achieved and both sides reiterated existing positions.
In Singapore, Austin appeared to be looking to provide an opening to ease tensions.
“We will not flinch if our interests are threatened. Yet we are not seeking confrontation,” the Pentagon chief said.
“I am committed to pursuing a constructive, stable relationship with China, including stronger crisis communications with the People’s Liberation Army,” he said.
The US has made countering China central to its national security policy for years, and the Biden administration has called rivalry with Beijing “the greatest geopolitical test” of this century.
Monday, after meeting Sherman, top Chinese diplomats accused Washington of creating an “imaginary enemy” in Beijing to divert attention from domestic problems and suppress China’s development.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday after the Tianjin talks, Sherman said she had confronted Chinese officials about what she called “the crimes against humanity” against Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region, the crackdown on the democracy in Hong Kong and alleged use of economic size to pressure smaller countries, as well as “aggressive actions” around Taiwan and in the South and East China Seas.
The US diplomat also downplayed expectations for progress after the meeting, adding: “There is no way to know in the early stages of building this relationship if we will get to all the places we hoped for.”
New ambassador on his way to the US
Meanwhile, the Reuters news agency reported on Tuesday that China’s yet-to-be-announced new ambassador to the US, Qin Gang, was on his way to Washington, DC.
Qin, 55, will replace Cui Tiankai, who has passed the retirement age for senior Chinese ambassadors at age 68, two sources familiar with the matter told the news agency.
Cui ended his eight years in Washington last month, making him China’s longest-serving ambassador to the US. Qin has no previous US-related experience, according to his biography on the State Department’s website.
The post of US Ambassador to China has been vacant since Republican Terry Branstad stepped down to assist in Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign.
Biden has plans to appoint former NATO ambassador Nicholas Burns to China, the New York Times reported in May.
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