The White House disclosed on Thursday that US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in Vienna this week in an effort to keep in touch amid rising tensions, including those involving Taiwan.
In the tentative, high-level rapprochement, both parties used carefully choreographed statements to describe the meeting as “candid, substantive, and constructive.”
According to the White House, the conflict in Ukraine and “cross-Strait issues” were discussed. By “cross-Strait issues,” they meant Taiwan, which has recently been the target of increasingly vehement rhetoric from Beijing.
Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported that Wang “completely expounded upon China’s solemn position” on Taiwan and that the two diplomats “agreed to continue to make good use of this strategic channel for communication.”
The historically tense relationship between Washington and Beijing has become even more tense in recent months due to concerns over commercial, political, and military influence, particularly in the Pacific region.
Through partnerships with countries like India, Japan, and Australia under its Quad alliance, the United States has sought to exert influence there against a more assertive China.
China has characterized the grouping as an attempt to encircle it, despite the fact that the group stresses that they are not a military alliance and denies having any hostile intentions.
Chinese diplomats have consistently criticized US President Joe Biden’s administration, and in a rare direct rebuke of Washington in March, Xi Jinping charged that “Western countries led by the United States” were attempting to undermine his nation.
The Vienna meeting is likely to revive rumors of a future meeting between Biden and Xi.
When questioned on the subject on Wednesday, Biden said there had been advancement.
Exercises by the military
China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has vowed to take control of the island in the future, using force if necessary. Taipei is wary of any official contacts with foreign governments.
The island constantly fears a Chinese invasion, and in recent years Beijing has increased its rhetoric and military activity in the area.
Beijing began three days of military drills last month around the democratically self-governing island, simulating targeted attacks and a blockade.
The exercises were a response to a meeting between US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen that China’s consulate in Los Angeles claimed undermined “the political foundation of China-US relations.”
In retaliation, the US sent a warship through the waters dividing the island from mainland China, which also asserts ownership of the entire Taiwan Strait.
Multiple Western navies regularly conduct “freedom of navigation operations” to assert the international status of the Strait and the South China Sea, under the leadership of the United States.
McCarthy’s Democratic predecessor Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan last year sparked the biggest-ever war games in China around Taiwan.
A visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was postponed earlier this year after Washington shot down a Chinese balloon it claimed was spying on US territory, a charge Beijing vehemently denied.