Top US and Chinese diplomats will hold their second meeting in months in Jakarta on Thursday, seeking to manage a possible resurgence of tensions over Chinese hacking.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and China’s top foreign policy official Wang Yi will meet in the Indonesian capital on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, according to the State Department’s public schedule.
The meeting went ahead despite Microsoft revealing two days ago that Chinese hackers had breached US government email accounts.
The Jakarta talks come about a month after Blinken traveled to Beijing, the first visit by a top US diplomat in five years, and met President Xi Jinping as well as Wang and Foreign Minister Qin Gang.
Beijing’s Foreign Ministry announced that Wang, who heads the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee, was representing China at a meeting between foreign ministers in Jakarta.
Blinken’s trip has set off a flurry of diplomacy, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visiting Beijing last week and a trip by climate envoy John Kerry set for the coming days.
But the United States still has not reached the key goal of re-negotiating with the Chinese military, which is crucial to avoid the worst situation.
Tensions between the world’s two largest economies have escalated in recent years, including over China’s assertiveness in the region and sweeping restrictions on advanced semiconductor exports by the United States.
U.S. officials fear China is plotting to invade Taiwan, a self-governing democracy it claims has ruled for nearly five decades.
– ‘productive coexistence’? –
Neither the United States nor China predicted breakthroughs in renewed diplomacy, but both said they wanted to avoid misunderstandings leading to outright conflict.
After his trip to Beijing, he spoke in a flash on China, avoiding Cold War-like rhetoric under former President Donald Trump’s administration to avoid a long-running global conflict with the expanding Asian power.
“I don’t think there’s a clear finish line, at least in the near term, maybe even in the lifetimes of most people in this room,” Blinken said during a recent congressional hearing on U.S. goals in China. Foreign Relations in New York.
“This is to get to a place where there is a peaceful and maybe a little bit more productive coexistence between us, because the bottom line is this: China is not going away, we are not going away, so we have to find a way to coexist and live in peace.”
But events have repeatedly intervened to confront the relationship.
Microsoft said this week that it had discovered a Chinese hacking group targeting about 25 organizations.
The Foreign Office said it had detected “repugnant activity” but refrained from publicly blaming China, saying an investigation was underway.
Blinken’s original plan to visit Beijing was scrapped in February after Washington said it had discovered a Chinese spy balloon over the US mainland.
– Tensions at sea, Myanmar –
The South China Sea is set to be a big topic at ASEAN talks in Jakarta, where Washington and Beijing will both attend the 18-nation East Asian foreign ministers’ meeting on Friday.
China claims almost the entire strategic waterway and several ASEAN members have complained about Beijing’s own overlapping territorial claims.
ASEAN will hold a joint meeting with the foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea to discuss what has been going on since the 1997 Asian financial crisis.
The crisis in coup-ridden Myanmar will also be on the list of topics that deserve attention because it is a thorny issue that divides ASEAN members, said Teku Rezasiah, a global relations expert at Pajajajaran University.
“Japan and South Korea are interested in preventing Myanmar from entering China’s orbit,” he said.
Thailand’s foreign minister said on Wednesday he met Myanmar’s ousted democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi last week in his first high-profile meetings with a foreign envoy since the country fell under military rule two years ago.
Thailand’s military-backed government has sought ties with the junta in neighboring Myanmar, drawing criticism that it is undermining ASEAN unity by putting pressure on its military rulers.