Antony Blinken (left) and Yang Jiechi (right). Photos by CNA and China News Service
Washington, June 11 (CNA) U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged China to halt its "pressure campaign" against Taiwan during a telephone meeting on Friday with the Chinese government's top diplomat and Politburo member Yang Jiechi.
Blinken "called on Beijing to cease its pressure campaign against Taiwan and peacefully resolve cross-Strait issues," State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement issued after the phone call.
The meeting came ahead of the summit of the Group of Seven in the United Kingdom, in which it is expected that China will be a top item on the agenda.
It was also the first conversation between the two diplomats since they met in-person in Alaska in March.
According to a statement released by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yang, who also heads the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office, said the Taiwan issue is "of core interest to China" and that the U.S. should handle it "carefully and appropriately."
In response to Blinken's comments, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) issued a statement on Saturday in which it thanked him for voicing support for Taiwan.
MOFA said Taiwan will continue to closely collaborate with the U.S. based on the existing foundation and contribute to the stability and prosperity of the region.
Blinken and Yang also discussed Hong Kong, North Korea and climate change, according to Price. Blinken also expressed concern over the "ongoing genocide and crimes" against Muslim Uyghurs and minority groups in western China's Xinjiang region.
The secretary of state stressed the importance of a continued investigation into the origin of COVID-19 by sending an expert team to China, where the first outbreak was reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, according to Price.
Meanwhile, Yang urged the U.S. to cease politicizing the issue and instead focus on global efforts to fight against the pandemic, according to the statement.
A report by a U.S. government national laboratory concluded that the hypothesis of a virus leak from a Wuhan laboratory was plausible and deserved further investigation, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing sources familiar with the classified document.
However, Yang told Blinken that China firmly opposes any attempts to exploit the virus to cast smears on the country, calling the COVID-19 lab leak theory an "absurd story."
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