The State Department is dispatching its principal diplomat for East Asia to China

The highest-ranking U.S. diplomat for East Asia is set to visit China this Sunday, as announced by the State Department. This comes shortly after President Biden’s meetings with the leaders of Japan and the Philippines in Washington, part of a broader diplomatic initiative in the region to counter Chinese assertiveness.

Daniel J. Kritenbrink, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, will lead the delegation along with Sarah Beran, Mr. Biden’s chief China adviser on the National Security Council. Their visit, scheduled until Tuesday, aims to engage in discussions with Chinese officials “as part of ongoing efforts to maintain open channels of communication and responsibly manage competition,” according to a State Department statement.

China’s actions in the Indo-Pacific region were a key focus during Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan’s recent three-day state visit to the White House, which culminated in a historic three-way summit with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of the Philippines. The Philippines has faced significant pressure from China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea.

Tensions between the U.S. and China have escalated recently, fueled by concerns over a potential conflict regarding Taiwan, and the U.S.’s treaty obligation to defend the Philippines.

In a meeting at the State Department on Friday, Enrique Manalo, the foreign secretary of the Philippines, expressed concerns over China’s continued aggressive behavior, citing recent incidents of harassment that led to injuries to Filipino seamen. The meeting included Antony J. Blinken, the Secretary of State; Lloyd J. Austin III, the Secretary of Defense; Jake Sullivan, the National Security Adviser; and their counterparts from the Philippines.

Japan has increasingly aligned with the U.S. in countering Chinese influence by boosting military spending and supporting Washington in global diplomacy. This has included backing Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, while China strengthens its ties with Russia.

The most recent high-level U.S. official to visit China was Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, who returned from Beijing earlier this month following four days of top-level economic discussions with limited progress.

President Biden reassured Japan and the Philippines during their Thursday meeting that the U.S. remains committed to their defense. “When we stand together,” he emphasized, “we can build a more secure future for everyone.”

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