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Washington has called on China to use its relationship with Iran and other countries in the Middle East to urge calm and prevent the conflict from spreading as Israel expanded its ground operations in the Gaza Strip.
The US raised the issue with China’s foreign minister Wang Yi during a three-day visit to Washington that included a meeting with President Joe Biden on Friday. The US is concerned about possible Iranian military action to support Hamas or Hizbollah that could trigger a broader conflict in the Middle East.
“We . . . pressed China to take a more constructive approach, and that would include of course their engagements with the Iranians to urge calm,” a senior US official said after the meetings with Wang.
“China obviously has relations in the region . . . We think it should be using those connections to call for calm on all sides. And I think some of their comments publicly have focused in one particular direction.”
Israel has criticised China for not taking a critical stance against Hamas over its October 7 attack. Earlier this month, Wang told Saudi foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan that Israel’s military campaign in response to the attack was “beyond the scope of self-defence”.
In the first visit by a Chinese foreign minister to Washington since 2018, Wang held 10 hours of meetings with Biden, secretary of state Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
Wang and the US officials discussed a possible summit between Biden and Xi Jinping, president of China, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in San Francisco next month. The US official declined to say whether an agreement had been reached but said the US administration was “making preparations for such a meeting”.
Biden last met Xi in Indonesia, in late 2022, in his only meeting with his counterpart since entering the White House. The leaders agreed to resurrect high-level diplomacy, but early efforts were derailed when a suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over North America in February.
The White House said the US raised a host of issues with Wang, including China’s “dangerous and unlawful actions in the South China Sea” and the need for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
Earlier this week, Biden became the first US president to warn China that any military action against the Filipino army, navy or air force would trigger Washington’s mutual defence treaty with Manila.
US officials said Blinken and Sullivan also raised the issue of counter-narcotics. Washington wants Beijing to crack down on the export of chemicals used to make Fentanyl — a synthetic opioid that has become the leading killer of Americans between the ages of 18 and 45.
The senior official said the US raised the importance of re-establishing the military-to-military channels that China shut down after then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last year. The official said the US was pressing again after Li Shangfu was removed as defence minister.
China had previously refused to arrange a meeting between Li and US defence secretary Lloyd Austin because the Biden administration did not lift sanctions that the Donald Trump administration imposed on Li in 2018.