U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards his plane for Berlin at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, on June 22, 2021.

Ondřej Harník | Pool | Reuters

WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Beijing this week to meet with senior Chinese officials, the State Department announced Wednesday.

The visit was originally planned for the beginning of this year, but after a an exploration balloon associated with China was discovered lingering over US airspace.

The top U.S. diplomat will “present bilateral issues, global and regional issues, and potential cooperation on common transnational challenges,” State Department spokesman Matt Miller said in a statement about the trip.

After Beijing, Blinken will travel to London to meet his counterparts from Great Britain and Ukraine. He also meets a number of allies on the sidelines Conference on the restoration of Ukraine. Blinken is expected to galvanize allies and the private sector to support Ukraine’s recovery efforts.

The trip follows a late-night call between Blinken and China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang.

During the call, Blinken and Qin they discussed keeping open lines of communication between Washington and Beijing to “avoid miscalculation and conflict,” according to a readout of the discussion released by the State Department.

Tensions between Beijing and Washington have increased over China’s territorial expansion in the South China Sea, aggression against Taiwan, allegations of espionage and human rights abuses.

Last month, Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, met in Vienna to discuss a range of topics, including Russian war in Ukraineas tensions simmer between the world’s two largest economies.

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The White House described the meeting as “honest, matter-of-fact and constructive.”

A senior Biden administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House, said the two spoke for just over eight hours over two days.

The official said Sullivan reiterated US concerns about China’s ties to Russia and the possibility that the world’s second-largest economy could help Moscow ease sanctions.

Washington and its allies have imposed several rounds of coordinated sanctions on Moscow’s war, pushing Russia past Iran and North Korea as the world’s most sanctioned country.

So far, the White House has said it has not seen Beijing providing aid to the Kremlin’s war effort.

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