WASHINGTON– Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet his Chinese counterpart this week at a meeting of G20 foreign ministers that is likely to deepen divisions over Russia’s war in Ukraine.
While strained US-China relations will be the focus of Blinken’s talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Indonesia’s broader G-20 gathering of major industrialized nations will almost certainly be overshadowed by the Ukrainian conflict and its effects on global food and energy security. . And, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be there, marking the first time he and Blinken will be in the same room, let alone the same city, at the same time in nearly six months.
The State Department said Tuesday that Blinken would meet Wang in Bali, but had little to say about the possibility of him seeing Lavrov, whom the United States has avoided since invading Ukraine in february. US officials have accused Lavrov and other Russian diplomats of a lack of seriousness as the war in Ukraine approaches.
The Biden administration has ruled out “business as usual” with Russia as long as it remains in Ukraine and US officials have said there will be no formal talks between Blinken and Lavrov in Bali. But, they couldn’t rule out the possibility of a chance meeting, which would be their first since they last met in Geneva in January.
“The Secretary intends to fully engage in the G-20. I won’t talk about any plans on the part of Foreign Minister Lavrov…but I can tell you that the Secretary will be a separate participant fully and active in the G-20.-20, which we consider a valuable forum,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
Like many recent international diplomatic meetings, the Bali meeting will focus on Ukraine as participants prepare the ground for a G-20 leaders’ summit, also to be held in Indonesia, in November. But unlike the Western-dominated G-7 and NATO summits held in Europe last week, the G-20 will have a different flavor.
China and many other participants, including India, South Africa, Brazil and several other major developing countries, resisted signing American and European opposition to the Russian invasion. Some have flatly refused Western pleas to join in condemnations of the conflict, which the United States and its allies see as an outright attack on the rules-based international order that has prevailed since the end of World War II.
The divergence set the stage for a potentially contentious preparatory meeting ahead of the November summit, amid questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attendance. The United States made it clear it did not believe Putin should attend, but urged the Indonesian hosts to invite Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy if the Russian leader attended.
Meanwhile, the United States and China are separately at odds on many issues ranging from trade and human rights in Taiwan to disputes in the South China Sea.
Blinken’s meeting with Yang came after China’s envoy for trade war talks with Washington expressed concern about U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports during a call with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Neither gave any indication that progress was being made on the issue.
During his meeting with Wang, Price said Blinken will “reinforce our commitment to working with international partners to address global challenges, including food and energy insecurity and the threat of Russia’s continued war on Israel.” Ukraine represents for the international order”.
From Bali, Blinken will travel to Bangkok, Thailand, to make up for a trip to the Thai capital that he was forced to cancel late last year due to COVID-19 concerns.