The White House on Thursday gave ample hints of potential direct talks between US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping as Washington's relationship with Beijing continues to deteriorate.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, "it's something that we would remain open to if the conditions are right and the circumstances are warranted."
Price told reporters that the suggestion of a "meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping was not a sign of any breakthrough but was merely the reflection of Biden's commitment to diplomacy."
Price made the remarks after President Biden's National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that the two leaders are due to take stock of where Washington and Beijing are in the relationship.
"Soon enough we will sit down to work out the right modality for the two presidents to engage," Sullivan said adding "it's now just a question of when and how."
When asked about when and how the meeting will be held, Sullivan said, "It could be a phone call, it could be a meeting on the margins of another international summit, it could be something else."
US State Department spokesperson went on to say, "Certainly don't have any meeting planned between President Xi, President Biden, nothing set to preview at this time, but it's something that we would remain open to if the conditions are right and the circumstances are warranted."
"I would make a couple of other points. We have continued to engage - again, strategically and guided by our principles, our interests, and our values - with the PRC Government. In fact, Secretary Blinken had a follow-on call with Director Yang .., they discussed potential areas for cooperation between the PRC and the United States - and that includes issues like climate, it includes issues like Iran, it includes issues like Afghanistan and a number of other issues - while we, as you pointed out in your question, continue to have serious disagreements and continue to be - to shine a spotlight on China's wanton abuses of human rights in places like Xinjiang, its crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong, its attempted intimidation of Taiwan - Taiwan, among other areas where we have profound concerns," he added.
Price said that Sullivan "was speaking to the proposition that the president has put forward, that there's no substitute for personal diplomacy".
The US Department of State issued the 2020 "International Religious Freedom Report" in May, including accusations against Beijing of suppressing Christians, Uygur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists.
Blinken also imposed sanctions on Yu Hui, former office director of the so-called Central Leading Group Preventing and Dealing with Heretical Religions, of Chengdu, for his involvement in gross violations of human rights. "He was making the point that that is not unique to ... the meeting between President Biden and President Putin. That applies across the board when it comes to our principled diplomacy," Price said.
On Wednesday (local time), Biden met in Geneva with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, at a time when the US-Russia relationship has plummeted amid Russia's crackdown on protesters, and Washington's accusations of cyberattacks and election interference.