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“China’s top diplomat and Jake Sullivan to hold back-channel talks.”

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi are set to meet privately in Thailand, marking their first contact since President Biden’s summit with Xi Jinping in November. The discreet channel, critical for stabilizing relations, previously saw secret meetings in Vienna and Malta last year, paving the way for the Biden-Xi summit. In contrast to publicized talks, these private discussions have proven effective in easing tensions over issues like Taiwan and a suspected Chinese spy balloon.

The White House confirmed the upcoming Friday-Saturday meeting, underscoring the commitment to strategic communication as agreed upon during the Woodside Summit in November 2023. China’s Foreign Ministry also acknowledged the meeting, noting Wang Yi’s presence in Thailand from Friday to Monday.

This meeting comes on the heels of US pressure on Beijing to influence Tehran in reining in Yemen-based Houthi rebels responsible for Red Sea ship attacks. Sullivan discussed the matter with Liu Jianchao in Washington, with speculation that Liu might succeed Wang as foreign minister. The meeting also takes place a month after Taiwan’s presidential election, with China viewing the winner, Lai Ching-te, as a separatist. Ongoing tensions persist over US concerns about China’s military activity around Taiwan.

Despite past differences, recent developments suggest a stabilization in US-China relations post-Biden-Xi meeting. Recent military talks and statements by Admiral John Aquilino indicate a decrease in dangerous intercepts of US aircraft by China. However, contentious issues like US surveillance near China’s coast and alleged intercepts remain unresolved.

Expectations for more high-level meetings this year include Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s visit to China and potential discussions about Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip, though details remain unconfirmed.

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