US, China had ‘serious’ talks despite ‘theatrics’: Spokesperson | Human Rights News


Public spat before first high-level talks could be ‘aimed at a domestic audience’, US State Department says.

US diplomats have had “serious discussions” with counterparts from China in Alaska and will not let “theatrics” from the Chinese side distract from laying out our principles and having tough conversations, the US State Department said on Friday.

US and Chinese officials traded rebukes before the first high-level, in-person meetings between diplomats from the two big powers on Thursday.

“We know that sometimes these diplomatic presentations can be exaggerated, or maybe even aimed at a domestic audience,” State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter told a news briefing.

“But we’re not letting the theatrics from the other side stop us from doing what we’re intending to do in Alaska, which is lay out our principles, as well as our expectations, and have these tough conversations early that we need to have with the PRC,” she said referring to China.

After pointed opening remarks on Thursday from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken about China’s challenge to a rules-based international order, China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi lashed out with a speech criticizing US democracy, and foreign and trade policies.

The United States accused China of “grandstanding” for its domestic audience, and both sides suggested the other had broken diplomatic protocol.

The rebukes played out in front of cameras, but a senior US administration official told reporters that as soon as media had left the room, the two sides “immediately got down to business” and held substantive and direct talks.

Porter said the talks on Thursday “were serious discussions”.

Yang Jiechi, director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office for China, and Wang Yi, China’s state councillor and foreign minister, arrive for a meeting with US counterparts at the opening session of US-China talks at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska March 18, 2021 [Frederic J Brown/Pool via Reuters]

The US and Chinese officials are set to conclude their talks in Alaska on Friday.

Porter also reiterated the US calls for China to release Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig from “arbitrary and unacceptable” detention.

She expressed deep US concern about Beijing’s decision to hold a closed court hearing for Spavor and plans to start Kovrig’s trial on Monday. The two men have been charged by China with spying.

China arrested Spavor and Kovrig in December 2018, soon after Canadian police detained Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech company Huawei Technologies, on a US warrant.

The US has also criticised China’s treatment of its predominately Muslim minority Uighur population, many of whom are locked in internment camps in Xinjiang.

During a UN General Assembly meeting to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: “Racism was and continues to be a daily challenge wherever we are. And for millions, it’s more than a challenge. It’s deadly.”

“Like in Burma, where Rohingya and others have been oppressed, abused, and killed in staggering numbers. Or in China, where the government has committed genocide and crimes against humanity against Uighurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang,” she said, referring to the region in northwest China.

Blinken has promised to broach this topic during the US-China discussions in Alaska.

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