CIA chief made secret trip to China amid tensions: US official | Politics News

CIA Director William Burns emphasized the importance of keeping communication open between China and the US.

In an effort to improve communications between Beijing and Washington, CIA Director William Burns visited China last month for talks with his Chinese counterparts, a US official said.

Burns’ visit in May, first reported by the Financial Times, went as Washington seeks to de-escalate tensions with Beijing and restored lines of communication amid concerns that a miscommunication between the two global powers could inadvertently lead to conflict.

The news of the visit to China comes as the administration of US President Joe Biden is pushing to restore contact and schedule meetings between many top officials in Washington and Beijing.

“Last month, Director Burns traveled to Beijing, where he met with his Chinese counterparts and stressed the importance of maintaining open lines of communication in intelligence channels,” a US official said. with Reuters news agency on Friday.

Burns met with Chinese intelligence officials and not any of Beijing’s political or foreign policy leaders, according to a second person familiar with the visit, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

The CIA, which does not regularly publish such visits, declined to comment on reports of Burns’ China trip.

The relationship between Beijing and Washington has been under severe stress in recent months on issues ranging from Taiwan and China’s human rights record to Beijing’s growing military activity in the South China Sea and close ties with Russia.

Washington has accused China of considering providing military aid to Moscow in support of its invasion of Ukraine. China has denied those claims.

Some critics of the Biden administration have questioned the merits of Washington’s offers to Beijing, arguing that decades of engagement have failed to change China’s approach to a range of issues. including trade, security and human rights.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a scheduled trip to China in February amid diplomatic tensions after China spy balloon shooting down flew over US airspace and over sensitive military sites.

Also on Friday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin shook hands with Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu on the sidelines of a security summit in Singapore but the two had no “substantive exchanges”, the Pentagon said. Corner said.

China had previously refused a formal meeting between Austin and Li, is under US sanctions, during the Shangri-La security summit taking place in the next few days.

In 2018, Washington imposes sanctions on Equipment Development Department (EED) of China’s Ministry of National Defense, and then-Director Li, on the purchase of missiles and fighter aircraft from Russia.

The sanctions triggered a US visa ban and barred EED and Li from conducting transactions with the US financial system.

Speaking at Saturday’s summit, Austin said dialogue between the US and China was “essential” and would help avoid miscalculations that could lead to conflict.

“The United States believes open lines of communication with the People’s Republic of China [PRC] is essential – especially among our defense and military leaders,” Austin said in his summit speech.

“The more we communicate, the more we avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations that could lead to crisis or conflict,” he said.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Friday that the United States wants to engage with China “without preconditions” on nuclear arms control issues, but Beijing continues to be unwilling heart.

“Simply put, we have not seen the PRC ready to separate strategic stability from the broader issues of the relationship,” Sullivan said in a speech at the Arms Control Association. , noting that this has been the cornerstone of nuclear security and strategy for decades.

“That is why we are also ready to engage China without preconditions, helping to ensure that competition is managed and that competition does not lead to conflict,” he said.

“We will see what the PRC chooses to do,” he added.


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