CIA chief made secret trip to China in May - US official

    WORLD  03 June 2023 - 14:45

    Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William Burns made a secret trip to China in May, a US official said on June 2, talking to news agencies on the condition of anonymity.

    "Last month, Director Burns travelled to Beijing where he met with Chinese counterparts and emphasized the importance of maintaining open lines of communication in intelligence channels," the official said, DW reports.

    The official provided no further details on the meeting.

    The US intelligence agency does not regularly announce the director's travels.

    The Associated Press cited a second anonymous source as saying that Burns only met with intelligence officials and had no meetings with political leadership.

    The CIA director has been sent on numerous sensitive trips by the US government, including a visit to Russia in late 2021 to speak about indications that Moscow was preparing to invade Ukraine.

    Strained ties between Beijing and Washington

    Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin briefly spoke with Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu at the Shangri-La security summit in Singapore, but the Pentagon said that this did not amount to a "substantive exchange." Beijing rejected Austin's request to hold a meeting on the sidelines of the event.

    Li has been under US sanctions since 2018 over purchasing Russian-made weapons and equipment. 

    US Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a trip to China that was planned for February after an alleged Chinese spy balloon flew through US airspace. Washington says that efforts to reschedule the visit are ongoing.

    Ties have been strained between the two major powers over the status of the self-governing island of Taiwan as well as Beijing's claims to parts of the South China Sea.

    Tensions between the Washington and Beijing have also been fueled by restrictions on exports of microchips, chip technologies and manufacturing equipment imposed by the US.

    Washington willing to engage Beijing 'without preconditions'

    US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that China has yet to show willingness "to compartmentalize strategic stability from broader issues in the relationship."

    "That's why we're also ready to engage China without preconditions, helping ensure that competition is managed, and that competition does not veer into conflict," he said on Friday in a speech at the Arms Control Association.

    Sullivan said that he raised the issue in two days of talks with Chinese top diplomat Wang Yi in May.

    "We'll see what China chooses to do."

    Caliber.Az

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