China’s top diplomat urged the U.S. to get bilateral relations back on track when speaking with Secretary of State Antony Blinken by phone Friday, according to a report by state broadcaster Central China Television.
Dialogue and cooperation should be the norm for China and the U.S., China’s Yang Jiechi told Blinken. The two foreign policy chiefs last spoke in March in Alaska, a meeting that got off to a rocky start with both sides criticizing each other in front of the cameras and which ended without any meaningful agreements.
In the Friday call, Yang also urged the U.S. to tread carefully on issues relating to Taiwan, and not to politicize an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus.
The State Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the call.
U.S.-China ties have remained tense following the change of administration in Washington. While President Joe Biden’s team has signaled that it sees areas of cooperation with China, there are a wide range of disagreements between them over issues such as human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, Beijing’s disputed claims in the South China Sea and debate over whether China has been sufficiently transparent in sharing information about the Covid-19 outbreak.
Yang said Friday that China remains deeply concerned about the theory that the Covid-19 virus leaked from a Wuhan research laboratory, characterizing that idea as an absurd story spread by the U.S., according to the China state media report.
Nevertheless, Group of Seven leaders meeting this weekend in Cornwall, U.K., are set to call for a fresh, transparent, World Health Organization-convened study into the origins of the virus.
Beijing officials have repeatedly denied that the virus leaked from the lab, and pointed to a WHO report earlier this year that said the most likely origin was natural.
Yang also urged the U.S. not to use human rights issues to interfere with internal politics in other countries. Top diplomats from the G-7 called last month for China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, condemning Beijing’s treatment of its Uyghur minority over forced labor and compelled sterilization. Beijing rejects accusations that human rights abuses are being committed in Xinjiang.