4 November 2023, Mumbai: In a recent diplomatic exchange, the United States conveyed its apprehensions to China regarding what it deemed “dangerous and unlawful” actions in the South China Sea. The talks transpired in Beijing, involving U.S. China Coordinator Mark Lambert and China’s Director-General for Boundary and Ocean Affairs, Hong Liang, as confirmed by the U.S. State Department.
Diplomacy Leading to Biden-Xi Meeting
These discussions followed a series of high-level diplomatic interactions in anticipation of an impending meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The anticipated encounter is expected to take place on the sidelines of the mid-November APEC summit in San Francisco.
Efforts to Maintain Communication Channels
The U.S. State Department emphasized that these talks were part of broader efforts to maintain open lines of communication and to responsibly manage the complex U.S.-China relationship. The U.S. side reemphasized the importance of re-establishing military-military channels to prevent misunderstandings and miscalculations.
Substantive and Constructive Talks
Characterizing the talks as “substantive, constructive, and candid,” the U.S. statement noted that various maritime issues were discussed, including the South China Sea and East China Sea, both of which are hotly contested by China and several other nations. The U.S. expressed its concerns about China’s actions in the South China Sea, highlighting specific incidents such as obstructing a Philippine resupply mission on October 22 and an “unsafe” intercept of a U.S. aircraft on October 24.
Upcoming Consultations and Engagement
China announced plans for “consultations on arms control and non-proliferation” following a visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Washington. The U.S. will also engage in separate talks on maritime matters and other issues. The State Department spokesperson disclosed that U.S. Assistant Secretary for Arms Control Mallory Stewart would host Sun Xiaobo, head of the arms-control department at China’s Foreign Ministry. This engagement reflects the U.S.’s persistent call for substantive discussions on arms control and addressing strategic risks, particularly concerning China’s nuclear weapons development.
Ongoing Diplomatic Efforts and Unconfirmed Meeting
A flurry of diplomatic engagements over recent months, primarily initiated by the United States, has aimed to salvage their relationship, which had been rapidly deteriorating. However, it’s important to note that China has yet to officially confirm the anticipated meeting between Presidents Biden and Xi, and key details remain to be worked out. This comes against the backdrop of earlier tensions, including the U.S. downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon in February, which had strained relations between the two nations.
By Yashika Desai