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US Asst Secy of State to visit China from today

WASHINGTON: The top US diplomat for East Asia will visit China starting on Sunday, the State Department said, just days after President Joe Biden held a summit with the leaders of Japan and the Philippines that focused on China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea.

US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink will travel to China April 14-16, and White House National Security Council Senior Director for China and Taiwan Affairs Sarah Beran will accompany him, the department said in a statement.

They will meet with Chinese officials “as part of ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication and to responsibly manage competition,” the statement said.

The Philippines and China had several maritime run-ins last month that included the use of water cannon and heated verbal exchanges. The disputes center on the Second Thomas Shoal, home to a small number of Filipino troops stationed on a warship that Manila grounded there in 1999 to reinforce its sovereignty claims.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, including the maritime economic zones of neighbouring nations. The Second Thomas Shoal is within the Philippines’ 200-mile (320-km) exclusive economic zone. A 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration found that China’s sweeping claims have no legal basis.

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