WASHINGTON—U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to meet a Chinese delegation at a U.S. military base in Hawaii this week to discuss bilateral ties that have soured deeply since the start of the year, sources familiar with the matter said.
In addition to an intensifying strategic rivalry, the world’s top two economies have been at loggerheads in recent months over the handling of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic and China’s move to impose new security legislation on Hong Kong.
Experts say relations have reached their lowest point in years, and in mid-May President Donald Trump even went so far as to suggest he could cut ties with Beijing.
Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper cited an unidentified source as saying that Yang Jiechi, a state councilor and member of the Communist Party’s politburo, will lead the Chinese side in the meeting with Pompeo.
It is expected to take place at Hawaii’s Hickam Air Force base, said a diplomatic source, who did not want to be identified. The State Department said Pompeo and his deputy Stephen Biegun left Tuesday for Hawaii but offered no additional detail about his plans.
It would be Pompeo’s first known contact with Yang since they spoke by telephone on April 15 to discuss the CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
The sources said the likely agenda included virus response, arms control, trade, Hong Kong, North Korea and tit-for-tat moves against journalists.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment about the trip, first reported by Politico on Friday.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian declined to confirm the reports at a regular briefing on Monday, but said: “China and the U.S. have maintained communication through diplomatic channels. If there is any further information, it will be released in a timely manner.”
Pompeo has been forceful in his criticism of Beijing’s handling of the CCP virus, which originated in China. He has said China could have prevented hundreds of thousands of deaths by being more transparent and accused it of refusing to share information.
Trump has initiated a process of eliminating special U.S. treatment for Hong Kong to punish the Chinese regime for curbing freedoms there, but has stopped short of immediately ending privileges that have helped the territory remain a global financial center.
By Humeyra Pamuk and David Brunnstrom
NTD staff and The Associated Press contributed to this report