In an apparent reversal of President Joe Biden’s remarks made a day earlier while in attendance at the Group of Seven meeting in Japan, the US said that it had no intentions to ease sanctions on the Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu.
Speaking to journalists on Monday in Washington, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller flatly denied that the US administration was considering easing the sanctions against Li. Because of the restrictions, China has declined military Secretary Lloyd Austin’s invitation to see Li at a military symposium in Singapore next month.
When asked whether the State Department was thinking about removing the sanctions, Miller said, “No, we are not. Biden “made clear that we are not planning to lift any sanctions on him or on China generally,” the president said.
When asked on Sunday whether Li might meet Austin if the US lifted its sanctions on him, Biden said, “That’s under negotiation right now.”
In a broader sense, Biden expressed hope that US-China ties will “begin to thaw very shortly” after the shooting down of an alleged Chinese spy balloon, which halted the good momentum following the US president and Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s summit last year. China accuses the US of trying to halt its progress by limiting access to cutting-edge technology and by backing Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory. Tensions are still high on a number of fronts.
The White House has recently begun communicating with China on a number of fronts despite the acrimonious rhetoric.
China’s top diplomat Wang Yi and US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo met in Vienna earlier this month, and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and China’s Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao will meet in Washington and Detroit this week, respectively.