U.S. official to visit China next week amid tense ties

STORY: A senior U.S. State Department official will travel to China next week as Washington seeks to boost communication with Beijing at a time of tense relations between the two countries.

The announcement of the visit came Saturday, just hours after U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, speaking in Singapore at Asia’s top security summit, blasted China for refusing to hold military talks over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

“I am deeply concerned that the PRC (People’s Republic of China) has been unwilling to engage more seriously on better mechanisms for crisis management between our two militaries.”

A senior Chinese military official struck back at Austin, saying the U.S. was responsible for a breakdown in dialog by ramping up sanctions on Chinese officials and destabilizing the Asia-Pacific region with its military presence.

[Upsound of Chinese Lieutenant General Jing Jianfeng]

Ties between the world's two largest economies are at loggerheads over everything from the future of democratically ruled Taiwan, territorial claims in the South China Sea and President Joe Biden's restrictions on semiconductor chip exports.

For its latest diplomatic effort, the U.S. will send Daniel Kritenbrink, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, to China to discuss what the State Department called "key issues in the bilateral relationship."

Kritenbrink’s trip follows a visit to China last month by CIA Director William Burns.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a planned February trip to China after an alleged Chinese spy balloon flew through U.S. airspace over sensitive military sites, kicking off a diplomatic crisis.