US, China clash as Biden debuts at G7 meeting

Published June 12, 2021
Britain's Queen Elizabeth, US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and France's President Emmanuel Macron attend a drinks reception on the sidelines of the G7 summit. — Reuters
Britain's Queen Elizabeth, US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and France's President Emmanuel Macron attend a drinks reception on the sidelines of the G7 summit. — Reuters

BEIJING: Beijing’s top diplomat on Friday condemned Washington’s “small circle” diplomacy, state media reported, in a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as G7 leaders met for their first in-person summit in nearly two years.

Yang Jiechi, the Chinese Com­munist Party’s chief diplomat, told Blinken that “genuine multilateralism is not pseudo-multilateralism based on the interests of small circles”.

“The only genuine multilateralism is that founded on the principles of the charter of the United Nations and international law,” Yang told Blinken, in their first one-on-one talks since acrimonious China-US discussions in Alaska in March.

The US administration of Joe Biden has maintained a firm line against China, and hopes to rally allies to counter Beijing on trade, technology and human rights -- particularly in Xinjiang, where Washington has accused China of genocide.

Yang on Friday hit back against those claims, urging the United States to “resolve its own grave human rights violations and not use so-called human rights issues as a pretext to arbitrarily interfere in the internal affairs of other countries”.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman said in a statement that Blinken “stressed the importance of cooperation and transparency regarding the origin of the coronavirus”, including allowing World Health Organisation experts back into China,

Biden has ordered US intelligence to report back by late August whether Covid-19, first detected in late 2019 in the city of Wuhan, emerged from an animal source or a laboratory accident.

Former president Donald Trump trotted out the lab-leak theory but was widely dismissed, with many believing he was seeking to deflect criticism over his own handling of the pandemic, but Biden has said there was a need for further study after criticising Beijing for not giving more access to a WHO probe.

The laboratory theory has outraged China, which has sought to rebrand itself in the world’s eyes not as the country that failed to stop the virus, but as a model on how to contain it.

“Genuine multilateralism is not pseudo-multilateralism based on the interests of small circles,” Yang told Blinken, according to state television.

“The only genuine multilateralism is that founded on the principles of the charter of the United Nations and international law,” Yang said.

Yang also renewed accusations of US hypocrisy on human rights as Blinken pressed on what the United States considers the genocide of Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic people who are incarcerated in camps.

“The United States should resolve its own domestic serious human rights violations, and not use the so-called human rights issues as an excuse to arbitrarily interfere in the internal affairs of other countries,” he said.

Yang made similar accusations about the United States in front of cameras during the meeting in Anchorage, taking aback US officials who expected brief, civil remarks but raising his star power inside China.

Concern on Taiwan

Blinken also voiced alarm at China’s increasing pressure on Taiwan, including military flights off its coast.

Blinken “called on Beijing to cease its pressure campaign against Taiwan and peacefully resolve cross-Strait issues”, the State Department statement said.

The United States in recent days agreed to reopen trade talks with Taiwan and authorised a military plane to bring a delegation of senators who offered Covid vaccines.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2021

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