Senior diplomats from the United States and China met Sep. 23 on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shook hands but did not respond to questions from the media as they sat down for talks.
Blinken told Wang that the maintenance of peace and stability on the issue of Taiwan was vital to the relationship between the two nations.
A senior U.S. official told reporters that Taiwan was the focus of the meeting.
“For our part, the Secretary made crystal clear, that in accordance with our long-standing one-China policy, which again has not changed, the maintenance of peace and stability across the Strait is absolutely, vitally important,” the official said.
The meeting took place despite a truncating of Blinken’s schedule, following the announcement that his father, Donald, had died the night before at the age of 96.
It also followed an exceptionally contentious week in Sino-American relations following the release of a “60 Minutes” interview in which President Joe Biden stated that U.S. forces would defend Taiwan from an invasion by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Taiwan in Focus
The CCP, which rules China as a single-party state, claims that Taiwan is a breakaway province of China that must be united with the mainland. Its leadership has repeatedly said that it is willing to use military force to achieve this goal, and has previously threatened to start a war over the issue.
Taiwan has been a self-governing democracy since 1949, however, and has never been controlled by the CCP.
Formally, the United States recognizes, but does not endorse, the CCP’s position, and the two sides have long agreed that neither side should attempt to unilaterally change the status quo.
Concerning the issue of whether the United States would defend Taiwan from a unilateral attempt from China, the nation has historically adhered to a policy of so-called “strategic ambiguity,” in which it neither confirms nor denies whether it would intervene militarily.
Biden’s recent comments, the fourth such occasion on which the president said the United States would defend Taiwan from CCP aggression, appear to go against that doctrine. The White House has stated repeatedly, however, that there is no change to the United States’ commitment not to unilaterally change the status quo.
Prior to the meeting, the State Department released a statement saying that Blinken’s meeting with Wang was part of Washington’s ongoing efforts to “maintain open lines of communication and manage competition responsibly.”
When Wang addressed the U.N. with a speech earlier in the day, however, he accused the United States of provoking China into an “all-out confrontation” and compared Taiwan’s independence to a “gray rhino charging toward us that must be stopped resolutely.”
U.S. leadership appeared unphased by the commentary and, immediately before his meeting with Wang, Blinken met his counterparts from the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, an international strategic forum consisting of the United States, Australia, India, and Japan.
Likewise, Blinken met with leaders of the Partners in the Blue Pacific, an economic and diplomatic working group for Pacific Island nations that Chinese state-owned media has accused of being an American anti-China “clique.”
“We’re deeply committed to the Pacific and have built enduring partnerships here,” Blinken said at a meeting of the Partners earlier in the day.
“All of us have longstanding historical, geographical, and cultural connections to the Pacific and ties between our peoples that go back quite literally generations.”
Reuters contributed to this report