The United States and China have agreed in principle for their presidents to hold a virtual meeting before the end of the year, a senior U.S. administration official said on Wednesday, after high-level talks aimed at improving communication between the two countries.
The closed-door meeting at an airport hotel in the Swiss city of Zurich between U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan and China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi was their first face-to-face encounter since an unusually public and acrid airing of grievances in Alaska in March.
U.S. officials had suggested that the meeting was a follow-on from President Joe Biden’s Sept. 9 call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, prior to which the world’s top two economies appeared to have been locked in a stalemate.
Taiwan in the centre of the discussions
The White House said Sullivan raised concerns about contentious issues such as Communist China’s actions in the South China Sea that was in the centre of the talks, as well as on human rights and Beijing’s stances on Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Taiwan.
At the end of the day, however, both Beijing and Washington said the talks, which lasted six hours, were constructive and candid. The U.S. side said the tone was very different from Alaska.
We do have out of today’s conversation an agreement in principle to hold a virtual bilateral summit meeting before the end of the year, the U.S. official told reporters.
Asked for further details, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: We’re still working through what that would look like, when and of course the final details we don’t quite have them yet.
"More meaningful talks than the earlier ones"
Early speculation had been that the two might meet in person at the G20 summit in Italy in October, but Xi has not left China since the outbreak of the pandemic early last year.
Today’s conversation, broadly speaking, was a more meaningful and substantive engagement than we’ve had to date below the leader level, the official said, adding that Washington hoped it would be a “model for future encounters.”
The official said it shouldn’t be seen as a thaw in relations, however.