US national security advisor, Chinese foreign minister to meet in Bangkok

Pimuk Rakkanam and Kunnawut Boonreak for RFA
US national security advisor, Chinese foreign minister to meet in Bangkok U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan (left) speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 16, 2024. At right, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi gives a speech in Beijing, Jan. 24, 2024.
Markus Schreiber/AP (left) and Andrea Verdelli/AP/Pool (right)

UPDATED at 5:47 p.m. ET on 2024-01-26

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi were set to meet in Bangkok on Friday and Saturday to build on a pledge to deepen their dialogue, despite the two superpowers’ differences on Taiwan.

This meeting will be the first high-level talk between the two nations since U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping met in the United States in November. 

“During the new round of meetings, (Wang) will state China’s position on China-U.S. relations, including the Taiwan issue, and exchange views with the U.S. side on international and regional issues of common interest,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wengbin told reporters at a regular press conference on Friday.

In Washington on Friday, John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, told a press conference at the White House that the talks in Bangkok “are about ways to improve our bilateral relationship but also to make clear and be firm about issues where we don't always agree with China.” 

Upon his arrival in Thailand’s capital Friday, Sullivan first met with Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-nukara and discussed ties between the two nations as well as regional and global issues, including efforts to address the worsening crisis in Myanmar.

During the meeting, Sullivan emphasized the “U.S. commitment to expanding collaboration on trade and investment, accelerating the transition to a clean energy future, deepening the two nations’ people-to-people ties, and broadening our security cooperation as we promote a free and open Indo-Pacific,” according to a White House statement. 

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin (left) talks with U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan at Government House in Bangkok, Jan. 26, 2024. [Government Spokesman Office via AP]

Thailand, one of America’s major non-NATO allies and geographically important to the region, however, reaffirmed its non-interference approach.

On the China-Taiwan issue, for instance, the Thai side reiterated before the meeting its “vision on Thai-Chinese relations, based on Thailand’s One China policy as well as common interests and international principles that the two countries adhere to, towards the building of a Thailand-China community with a shared future for enhanced stability, prosperity and sustainability.”  

Regarding planned talks between Sullivan and Wang, Thai Foreign Ministry spokesperson Kanchana Patarachoke said: “The meeting is actually arranged bilaterally between the two sides. We did not have any role in organizing for the meeting or anything but we are pleased that Thailand is the venue for such a meeting.” 

“And we are confident that the dialogue between the two sides will contribute to peace and security and development of the countries in the regions also at the global stage as well.”

Dr. Isa Gharti, a public policy researcher at Chiang Mai University, believes the meeting between Sullivan and Wang stresses Thailand’s strategic position as the middleman for the super powers.

“The country has a long history of balancing its relationship with China and the U.S., which is appropriate for it  to be the host,” Gharti told Radio Free Asia (RFA), which is affiliated with BenarNews. 

“The role as a facilitator to solve high-level conflict is a positive thing for the Srettha administration,” he added, referring to the current prime minister’s government.

Thailand and China will celebrate 50 years of diplomatic ties in 2025.

Alex Willemyns contributed to this report from Washington.


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