US working with allies and partners to strengthen its hand against China, says official

Washington, Mar 17 (PTI) The US is working with allies and partners to strengthen its hand against China and the recent Quad summit was probably the most important illustration in practical terms of exactly what it was trying to achieve, a Biden administration official has said on the eve of a crucial meeting with top Chinese foreign policy officials.

The relations between the US and China are at an all-time low. The two countries are currently engaged in a bitter confrontation over various issues, including trade, the communist giant’s aggressive military moves in the disputed South China Sea and human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang region.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan are set to meet on Thursday with the foreign affairs chief of the ruling Communist Party of China, Yang Jiechi and Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi in Anchorage, Alaska.

We are working actually with allies and partners to strengthen our hand. The Quad last week was probably the most important very clear illustration in practical terms of exactly what we’re trying to achieve here, bringing together the four leaders in a virtual summit for the first time to actually do something together that we couldn’t do individually, particularly on the vaccine distribution deliverable, said the official.

Known as the “Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the Quad grouping comprises the US, India, Australia and Japan. The representatives for the four-member nations have met periodically since its establishment in 2007.

US President Joe Biden on Friday opened the first Quad Leaders’ Summit held virtually and attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

“This isn’t just about something that is here to counter China; this is about something that’s actually about doing something that enhances our leverage, enhances the quality of life in the region in meaningful ways,” said the official, who briefed reporters ahead of Thursday’s meeting on the condition of anonymity.

The Anchorage meeting, the official said is not the resumption of a particular dialogue mechanism or the beginning of a dialogue process.

This is very much about sitting down, getting an understanding of each other, and then taking that back and taking stock, the official said.

Blinken and Sullivan are scheduled to meet Yang Jiechi and Wang on Thursday and Friday in Anchorage, the first high-level in-person US-China meeting since Joe Biden became American President in January.

The conversations in Anchorage are very much intended as an initial discussion to understand US interests, intentions, and priorities, and frankly, to get a bit of an understanding of where the Chinese are at, the official told reporters during a conference call.

We think it’s really important that our Chinese interlocutors hear from Secretary Blinken and National Security Advisor Sullivan directly about our priorities and our intentions,” the official said.

“We know that sometimes there is a sense, potentially a perception, or maybe it’s a hope, in Beijing that our public message is somehow different than our private message, the official said.

It is really important that we dispel that idea very early and that we’re very clear with delivering the same messages in private that you have heard from us in public.

“That includes making very clear our deep concerns about a range of issues, whether it’s Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Chinese economic coercion of our allies and partners, China’s increasingly aggressive activities across the Taiwan Strait, the official said.

According to the official, the Biden administration will absolutely make those points very clear.

But this is really about having a broader strategic conversation, it’s about communicating the areas where we intend to take steps, and it’s about understanding where our Chinese interlocutors are at, the official said.

America’s diplomacy as it relates to the Indo-Pacific is not limited just to the Indo-Pacific, the official said, adding the Biden administration has been engaged in some pretty intensive diplomacy with European partners and allies on the Indo-Pacific region, including on China.

We’ve had a series of engagements at all levels with European partners and allies. We’ve been doing a bit of a virtual roadshow with a number of different capitals, having interagency conversations with key interlocutors there to really compare notes, the official said.

According to another senior administration official, there will be no joint statement after the Anchorage meeting.

Responding to a question, the official said that there is increasing global concern about Chinese actions.

We see that in particular on Xinjiang. We see that on Hong Kong, where you’re seeing mounting not only condemnation but action by a number of countries to really make clear that China’s violation of international rules, norms, and universal values does have consequences for its relationships and its engagements with other countries, the official said.