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China's top diplomat to pay rare US visit ahead of potential Xi trip

WASHINGTON, United States — China's top diplomat will pay a rare visit to Washington this week, the United States announced Monday, paving the way for a potential visit by President Xi Jinping aimed at keeping tensions in check.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the highest-ranking Chinese official in the US capital in nearly five years, will visit from Thursday through Saturday against a backdrop of friction over trade, Ukraine, the Middle East, Taiwan and China's assertive actions at sea near the Philippines.

A senior US official said the trip was part of efforts between the world's two largest economies to "responsibly manage our competition."

"We continue to believe that direct face-to-face diplomacy is the best way to raise challenging issues, address misperception and miscommunication, and explore working with the Chinese where our interests intersect," he said on customary condition of anonymity.

Wang will be returning a visit in June to Beijing by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was the highest-ranking US official to travel to China since 2018.

Blinken huddled for 11 hours with the top Chinese leadership including Xi. Diplomats say Wang will be expecting a similar meeting with President Joe Biden, who is in Washington this week.

Biden, who last saw Xi last November on the sidelines of Group of 20 talks in Bali, has invited China's leader to travel next month to San Francisco where the United States will host an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Asked if Wang's visit will formalize a visit by Xi, another US official said that Biden "has stated multiple times that he hopes to see President Xi in the near future" and declined further comment.

Both sides have expressed an interest in recent months in avoiding conflict. Xi, earlier this month receiving Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, said the US-China relationship "will determine the future and destiny of mankind."

But tensions have repeatedly soared including after China carried out major military exercises near Taiwan, the US-backed democracy claimed by Beijing, following actions by US lawmakers.

The Philippines, a US ally, on Monday accused China of deliberately hitting its boats on a