STATE DEPARTMENT — Senior officials from the United States and the People’s Republic of China held diplomatic talks in Washington on Thursday to try to defuse tensions, to discuss efforts to maintain military-to-military communication, and to advance cooperation.

Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Kurt Campbell hosted China’s Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu at the State Department for talks aimed at maintaining open communication to prevent miscalculations and unintended conflicts, especially during times of tension. 

Following two hours of face-to-face discussions, U.S. and Chinese officials had a working lunch at the State Department. Later in the afternoon, U.S. deputy national security adviser Jon Finer continued discussions with Ma.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan also stopped by the meeting to greet Ma and exchanged views on key issues.

“The two sides discussed ongoing work to continue military-to-military communication and advance cooperation in areas where our interests align, such as counternarcotics,” the White House said in a statement, ahead of the expected meeting between U.S. and China defense chiefs during the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

They also discussed areas of disagreement.

“Finer affirmed the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He underscored U.S. support for international law and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. The two sides also discussed Russia’s war against Ukraine, challenges in the Middle East, and efforts to advance the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the White House statement said.

The visit by Ma follows U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to Shanghai and Beijing in April.  Officials said it builds on the U.S.’s intensive diplomacy with the PRC to responsibly manage competition in the relationship, even in areas where the two countries disagree. 

The State Department has said the U.S. is engaging in face-to-face diplomacy with China to clearly and directly communicate Washington’s positions and intentions, aiming to make progress on bilateral, regional and global issues.

A spokesperson from PRC’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Ma would also “interact and communicate with representatives from various sectors in the U.S.” during his visit to the country Thursday to Sunday.

State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said Thursday that the U.S. would continue its engagement with China at senior levels while raising concerns over contentious issues, including Beijing’s support for Russia’s war efforts in Ukraine. 

“If China does not curtail its support for Russia’s defense industrial base, the U.S. would be prepared to take further steps,” Patel told reporters during a briefing.

He added, “The PRC’s reconstitution of the Russian defense industrial base not only threatens Ukrainian security but also threatens European security,” a view held by the United States, the G7, the European Union and NATO countries.

However, Patel declined to preview any potential U.S. sanctions.

While in Beijing last month, Blinken voiced “serious concern” regarding China’s support for Russia’s defense industry, warning Chinese leaders that Washington could impose sanctions over the matter. 

China has defended its approach to Russia, saying it is engaged only in normal economic exchanges with a major trading partner. 

On Wednesday, Campbell renewed the U.S. warnings, saying Chinese support was helping to revitalize Russia’s military capabilities, including long-range missiles, artillery, drones and battlefield tracking.

During his visit to Brussels, Campbell emphasized the urgent need for European and NATO countries “to send a collective message of concern to China about its actions, which we view are destabilizing in the heart of Europe.” 

The latest U.S.-China talks occur just days after China conducted a large-scale, two-day military exercise involving 111 aircraft and 46 naval vessels around Taiwan. Washington has strongly urged Beijing to exercise restraint and has reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Mark Lambert, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for China and Taiwan, met virtually on May 23 with Hong Liang, the PRC’s director-general for boundary and ocean affairs. During the meeting, Lambert expressed profound concerns regarding People’s Liberation Army joint military drills in the Taiwan Strait and around Taiwan.  

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