Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday he will meet with China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Alaska on March 18, the first in-person contact between the top officials of the two countries since the change of U.S. administration.
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will also attend the meeting, the State Department said, noting that the participants will discuss "a range of issues."
The administration of President Joe Biden, who took office on Jan. 20, is seeking to take a tough stance against China's military assertiveness in the region, unfair trade practices and human rights abuses, while also signaling its readiness to explore areas of cooperation with the Asian giant.
Blinken said at a House of Representatives committee session that the planned meeting will be an important opportunity to lay out "in very frank terms the many concerns" Washington has with Beijing's actions and behavior that is challenging the security, prosperity and values of the United States and its allies.
But he also said the U.S. side will "explore whether there are avenues for cooperation."
While China is believed to be eager to reset its relations with the United States following four turbulent years under Biden's predecessor Donald Trump, Blinken emphasized that the upcoming talks are not a "strategic dialogue."
"There's no intent at this point for a series of follow-on engagements," he said, adding, "Those engagements, if they are to follow, really have to be based on the proposition that we're seeing tangible progress and tangible outcomes on the issues of concern to us with China."
The talks will follow Blinken's four-day trip to Japan and South Korea through March 18. On his way back, he will stop in Alaska for the meeting with the Chinese officials in Anchorage.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told a press conference it was important that the administration's first meeting with Chinese officials is held on American soil and occurs after the United States has met and consulted closely with allies.
Last month, Biden and Blinken held phone talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Yang, respectively, conveying concerns over issues including human rights abuses against the Muslim Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang region, the crackdown on Hong Kong and assertive actions toward Taiwan.
U.S.-China relations plummeted to their lowest point in decades under the Trump administration, which took an increasingly confrontational stance on numerous fronts including trade practices, technology, Hong Kong, Taiwan, human rights issues and control of the South China Sea.