Senior US, Chinese diplomats hold 'candid' talks to avoid escalation of tensions

FILE - Daniel Kritenbrink, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, testifies to a full committee hearing about China of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Feb. 28, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Kritenbrink and Chinese diplomats held "candid and productive" talks in Beijing and agreed to keep open lines of communication to avoid tensions from spiraling into conflict, officials said Tuesday, June 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File) (Jacquelyn Martin, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TAIPEI – Senior diplomats from China and the United States held “candid and productive” talks in Beijing and agreed to keep open lines of communication to avoid tensions from spiraling into conflict, officials said Tuesday.

On Monday, Daniel Kritenbrink, assistant U.S. secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, was the most senior U.S. official confirmed to have visited China since tensions between Washington and Beijing soared with the shooting down of a Chinese spy balloon over the U.S. in early February.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the time postponed a planned trip to China, and Beijing has since largely rebuffed attempts at official exchanges, though two top U.S. and Chinese defense officials briefly interacted at a forum in Singapore over the weekend.

China’s Foreign Ministry said Kritenbrink and Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu “had candid, constructive and fruitful communication on promoting the improvement of China-U.S. relations and properly managing differences.”

Beijing said it stated its “solemn position on Taiwan” — a self-ruled island China claims as its territory to be annexed by force if necessary — and other issues, and that the two sides had agreed to maintain communication.

The U.S. State Department also said the two officials held “candid and productive discussions as part of ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication and build on recent high-level diplomacy between the two countries.”

The U.S. Navy complained Sunday about an “unsafe interaction” in the Taiwan Strait, after a Chinese warship came within 150 yards (137 meters) of a U.S. destroyer. In May, a Chinese fighter jet flew dangerously close to a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea, where Beijing shares overlapping territorial claims with other nations.

CIA Director William Burns reportedly took a secret trip last month to Beijing in another sign the two sides are interested in restoring communication through various channels.