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US urges China to help deter Iran-backed Houthis in behind-the-scenes meeting

Written by The Anand Market

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US national security adviser Jake Sullivan urged Beijing to use its influence with Tehran to curb Iranian-backed Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea, during a behind-the-scenes meeting with the minister Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

A senior U.S. official said Sullivan raised the issue with Wang during two days of talks in Bangkok, Thailand.

The official said China had “significant leverage” with Iran and that Beijing had said it had raised the issue with Tehran. But she added that the United States was trying to see whether Beijing had raised the issue and whether its efforts would be effective.

The White House said the United States and China would hold counternarcotics negotiations in Beijing next week, after Sullivan and Wang met in Bangkok in the latest effort between the two powers to stabilize relationships.

Sullivan and Wang praised progress in efforts to combat the narcotics trade, as the two sides prepare to hold the first meeting of a working group established during President Joe Biden’s summit with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in San Francisco in November.

The White House said the meeting was “part of efforts to maintain open lines of communication and responsibly manage competition” agreed to by Biden and Xi. The senior official said the United States expected Biden and Xi to speak at some point in the coming months.

He said both sides welcomed recent efforts to stabilize relations, including the resumption of talks between the US and Chinese militaries, which China had halted in 2022 after the Speaker of the House of Representatives visited Taiwan. American, Nancy Pelosi.

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The White House said it also had “frank, substantive and constructive discussions” on issues including Russia’s war with Ukraine, the Middle East, North Korea and the South China Sea. They also discussed a bilateral dialogue on artificial intelligence that will begin in the spring.

The Financial Times recently reported that senior US officials had pressed China to urge Tehran to rein in the Iranian-backed Houthis who have attacked commercial shipping in the Red Sea over the past two months.

They also discussed Taiwan, following the election this month of Lai Ching-te as president. Beijing views Lai as a dangerous separatist and fears he will push Taiwan toward independence. Washington has urged China not to take provocative steps as Taiwan prepares for Lai’s inauguration in May.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington said Wang told Sullivan that Taiwan independence “poses the greatest risk to cross-Strait peace and stability and the greatest challenge to China-U.S. relations “. It said Wang called on the two counties to treat each other as equals, “rather than in a patronizing manner.”

The Chinese embassy added that Wang had “warned against transforming economic and technological issues into political and security issues.”

In another sign of improvement, U.S. officials said there have been no dangerous aerial interceptions of U.S. spy planes by Chinese warplanes over the South China Sea in the two months since that Biden and Xi held their so-called Woodside summit.

U.S. officials have emphasized in recent months that they do not expect decisive results from high-level engagement. Rather, the renewed efforts are aimed at reducing tensions and ensuring that increased competition between the two powers does not escalate into conflict.

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The FT reported last week that Sullivan and Wang would meet in Thailand, continuing a private channel that U.S. officials said had been effective because the meetings took place out of the spotlight. Sullivan and Wang met quietly in Vienna and Malta last year, helping pave the way for a meeting between Biden and Xi in November.

Counternarcotics negotiations aim to stem the flow of ingredients used to make Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that has sparked an epidemic in America. Mexican drug cartels produce the drug using precursor chemicals largely from China and smuggle the narcotics into the United States.