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International relations

US and EU reboot dialogue on China 'challenges and opportunities'

Blinken secures European cooperation during fence-mending trip to Brussels

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, is welcomed by European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell ahead of a meeting in Brussels on March 24.   © Reuters

LONDON -- The European Union and the U.S. will restart a dialogue on dealing with China, top diplomats from both sides said Wednesday after a meeting in Brussels.

The dialogue will be "a forum to discuss the full range of related challenges and opportunities," said Josep Borrell, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, following talks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The announcement comes amid Blinken's first trip to Europe in office, during which U.S. President Joe Biden's foreign policy chief aims to shore up trans-Atlantic relations.

"We agreed today to resume U.S.-EU dialogue on China, because we know that we can approach Beijing most effectively when we are working together and coordinating our approaches," Blinken said.

Borrell said the meetings will take place at the expert and senior official levels and cover topics including "reciprocity, economic issues, resilience, human rights, security, multilateralism and areas for constructive engagement with China, such as climate change."

"We share an assessment of China's role as a partner, as a competitor and a systemic rival," added Borrell, who is also the European Commission's vice president in charge of a stronger Europe in the world.

The U.S.-EU dialogue on China was first launched in October 2020 by Borrell and then-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo under the administration of then-President Donald Trump. A statement at the time described the range of topics for dialogue in similar terms.

Blinken's visit to Belgium, which started on Monday, is aimed at reaffirming the U.S. commitment to NATO allies and European partners, according to the State Department. It is widely seen as a rebuilding of relationships that frayed under the Trump administration.

"We will seek every opportunity to consult and cooperate with our allies and partners, and to make sure those relationships are able to meet the new and emerging threats and opportunities of our time," Blinken told reporters after talks with Borrell.

While in Belgium, Blinken attended a meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen earlier in the day.

Blinken attended the NATO foreign ministerial meeting. Responding to a question from the media following his meetings at the NATO headquarters, Blinken said the U.S. saw the EU as "a partner of first resort on a broad array of issues, and China is one of them."

There were signs of such a strengthened alliance earlier in the week. The U.S. joined the EU, the U.K. and Canada in imposing coordinated sanctions on Chinese officials Monday over alleged human rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang Province.

Beijing denies repressing Uyghurs and responded with its own sanctions on European parliamentarians and scholars, whom it accused of harming "China's sovereignty and interests."

In there meeting, Blinken and Borrell affirmed "that credible multi-party democracy, the protection of human rights and adherence to international law support the stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific."

The two foreign policy chiefs also discussed dealing with Russia and Iran.

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