U.S. Punishes 24 Chinese Officials on Eve of First Talks Under Biden

Such remarks have heartened traditional American allies and stirred anger in China, which has repeatedly called on the United States to abandon a confrontational approach. Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and Mr. Blinken are scheduled to meet the top Chinese diplomats, Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi, in Alaska beginning on Thursday.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zhao Lijian, accused the United States of a “zero-sum mind-set” that was “doomed to end in the dustbin of history.”

“Those wearing colored lenses can easily lose sight of the right direction, and those entrenched in the Cold War mentality will bring harm to others and themselves,” Mr. Zhao said on Monday.

The United States has imposed sanctions against Chinese officials before under the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which was approved by Congress and signed into law by Mr. Trump last year. Among other things, it authorizes the State Department to restrict designated officials from using American financial institutions.

Wang Chen, a veteran party leader who led the legislative changes adopted last week, is the most senior Chinese official targeted so far. The Trump administration previously imposed the sanctions on Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, the police chief and the justice secretary.

The ultimate impact on Chinese behavior has, so far, been minimal, but the latest designations significantly expand the number of officials targeted.

In all, the latest American sanctions would affect 14 vice chairmen of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, which recently concluded its annual gathering in Beijing, and officials from the Hong Kong Police Force’s National Security Division, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and the Office for Safeguarding National Security.

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Visiting Japan, Top U.S. Envoys Set Combative Tone for China Talks

Now, with the Biden administration in place and with China growing increasingly assertive, Japan seems more willing to join with the United States in its unequivocal criticism of China’s actions.

Mr. Kishi, the defense minister, said that Japan could “absolutely not accept” China’s actions to increase tensions in the East and South China Seas, and indicated they were violating international laws.

Yet the Japanese foreign minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, was less overt in criticizing China.

While Mr. Blinken explicitly singled out China — and Myanmar, where the military staged a coup last month — for threatening “democracy, human rights and rule of law,” Mr. Motegi avoided mentioning China directly. He said that he welcomed the alliance for its role in protecting “peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.”

Analysts said Japan may temper its language because it has more to lose from confrontation with China.

“One big difference is their economic relationships with China,” said Narushige Michishita, vice president of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo. “While the U.S. can live without China, Japan cannot. They have to find a common ground there.”

The high-level visit from Washington sought, in part, to remind Japan that it shares much common ground with the United States. That it was the first official trip overseas for both Mr. Blinken and Mr. Austin since taking office was repeated several times on Tuesday to assure Japan of its value to the Biden administration.

The alliance with Japan never suffered as much damage under the Trump administration as U.S. partnerships in Europe. Mr. Abe maintained a close relationship with Mr. Trump and hosted him for two visits to Japan. Last October, when then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, the two exchanged a fist bump that lasted 15 seconds.

On Tuesday, when Mr. Suga met with Mr. Austin and Mr. Blinken at his official residence, they all bowed — as is the custom in Japan.

Makiko Inoue contributed reporting from Toyko, and Steven Lee Myers from Seoul.

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North Korea Accuses Washington of Raising ‘a Stink’ in First Comments on Biden

SEOUL — North Korea on Tuesday denounced Washington for raising “a stink” on the Korean Peninsula by going forward with joint military exercises with South Korea, striking a confrontational tone in its first official comment on the Biden administration.

“We take this opportunity to warn the new U.S. administration trying hard to give off a powder smell in our land,” Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, said in a statement carried by state-run North Korean media on Tuesday. “If it wants to sleep in peace for the coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step.”

Ms. Kim, who serves as her brother’s spokeswoman in North Korea’s relations with Seoul and Washington, dedicated most of her statement to criticizing Seoul for pushing ahead with its annual military drills with the United States this month, despite warnings from her brother.

The statement came as Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III touched down in Japan for their joint visit this week. Mr. Blinken and Mr. Austin were scheduled to fly to South Korea on Wednesday to meet with President Moon Jae-in and other senior South Korean leaders. How to deal with North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threat sits high on their agenda.

through multiple channels in recent weeks, but Pyongyang has been unresponsive, according to the White House.

In her statement, Mr. Kim accused South Korea of opting for “war in March” and “crisis in March,” instead of “warmth in March,” by starting the joint military drills, which the North has described as rehearsals for invasion.

Under former President Donald J. Trump, Washington and Seoul suspended or scaled down their joint military drills to support diplomacy with Mr. Kim. After three meetings, Mr. Trump’s talks with Mr. Kim collapsed without a deal on how to end North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile capabilities.

a party meeting in January, he declared that North Korea would build new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles and make its nuclear warheads lighter and more precise.

North Korea has also turned cool toward South Korea, ending all official dialogue with Seoul and blowing up an inter-Korean liaison office. In the party meeting in January, Mr. Kim warned that returning inter-Korean relations to a “point of peace and prosperity” depended on South Korea’s behavior.

And while Mr. Kim himself has largely refrained from personal attacks against Mr. Trump and Mr. Moon, his sister has frequently been dispatched to issue blistering statements against both Washington and Seoul.

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Biden Goals Converge in Asia: Rebuilding Alliances and Countering China

WASHINGTON — Two ambitions lie at the center of President Biden’s foreign policy agenda: rebuilding ties with frustrated allies and assembling a united front on China.

This week, he is attempting both as he dispatches two of his most senior envoys to Japan and South Korea in his administration’s highest-level foreign travel since it took office in January.

The visits to the United States’ strongest partners in East Asia are a prelude to the Biden administration’s opening round of face-to-face contact with Beijing. One of the envoys, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, will travel on to Alaska and join Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, in a meeting with China’s two top diplomats.

The administration sees the gathering as a chance to establish ground rules and set red lines for a relationship that Mr. Blinken has called “the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century.” American officials have described it as “a one-off session” to identify issues where Washington can work with Beijing — and then “lay out, in very frank terms, the many concerns that we have,” Mr. Blinken told Congress last week.

month-old military coup in Myanmar and North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, which remain firmly in place after the Trump administration’s failed flirtation with the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

The decision to make Japan the first destination for Mr. Blinken and Mr. Austin was seen as a significant and reassuring development in Tokyo, which worked hard to maintain close ties with Mr. Trump even as he demanded huge increases in payments to keep American troops in the country. On Friday, the White House announced that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga would be the first foreign leader to meet with Mr. Biden in Washington.

“At the end of the Trump administration, with regard to Asia, we were bickering with our allies over how much to pay for the cost sharing in terms of defense,” said Victor Cha, who oversaw Asia policy at the White House during the George W. Bush administration and advises the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “We had a very unilateral view when it came to alliances as a nation, almost a disdainful view with regard to them.”

“At the same time,” Mr. Cha said, “China was using its economic leverage all around the region to bully other countries.”

The Trump administration took an often contradictory approach toward China. Mr. Trump often flattered its authoritarian leader, Xi Jinping, as he tried to strike trade deals. At the same time, his administration criticized Beijing’s human rights abuses, military and cyberspace incursions, and assaults on democracy.

The Biden administration’s strategy could prove just as dizzying. Mr. Blinken has described seeking a relationship that is based at once on cooperation, competition and, as needed, confrontation with China.

Tokyo has grown more vocal as the Chinese military has made incursions around islands that Japan administers in the East China Sea, known in Japan as the Senkakus and in China as the Diaoyu. Seoul has used its temperate relations with Beijing as a pressure tactic against North Korea, which depends on China to keep its economy afloat.

For their part, China’s leaders have said they are eager to get the relationship with the United States back on an even keel. Some analysts have warned that any steps toward a détente could just buy China more time to develop technological and military capabilities before a diplomatic breakdown.

“As two countries with different social systems, China and the United States naturally have differences and disagreements,” Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, said at a news conference in Beijing on March 7. Mr. Wang and Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, will be meeting with Mr. Blinken in Alaska.

Mr. Wang called it normal to have a “healthy competition on a fair and just basis for the purpose of self-improvement and mutual enhancement, rather than finger-pointing or zero-sum competition.”

Yet Chinese leaders also appear concerned about the Biden strategy of rallying allies into a coherent bloc against China, something that could hurt Beijing politically and economically. Last week, for example, the Quad countries announced an effort to ship coronavirus vaccines to Southeast Asia, countering China’s own efforts at so-called vaccine diplomacy.

Mr. Wang cited the pandemic, the economic recovery from it and climate change as areas where China and the United States could cooperate, though he provided no details. But he said that the United States and others had no right to interfere in what he described as internal matters — human rights abuses against ethnic Uighurs in China’s western Xinjiang region, efforts to subvert democracy in Hong Kong and surveillance and repression in Tibet.

a cost-sharing agreement for stationing American troops in South Korea, a presence that Mr. Trump had also threatened to end.

After the meetings in Tokyo and Seoul, Mr. Austin will travel to India, which is at its lowest point in relations with China in decades after a deadly border incursion last summer. Mr. Blinken will arrive in Alaska on Thursday for the meeting with the Chinese envoys.

As he wished Mr. Blinken luck for the talks, Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that “we cannot treat them as a normal adversary.”

“We are truly in an ideological struggle fighting for democracy against authoritarianism and promoting freedom over oppression,” Mr. McCaul said. He added that the United States had for four decades “turned a blind eye” to China’s ruling Communist Party in hopes of persuading its leaders to follow international norms.

“Unfortunately, it just didn’t work,” Mr. McCaul said.

Lara Jakes and John Ismay reported from Washington, and Steven Lee Myers from Seoul.

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South Korea Will Pay More for U.S. Troop Presence

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea said on Wednesday that it had agreed to increase its share in covering the cost of the American military presence by 13.9 percent this year, removing a prolonged dispute in the alliance ahead of a joint visit by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III.

Differences over how to share the cost of keeping 28,500 American troops in South Korea have kept the allies at odds for years. The issue became particularly contentious under former President Donald J. Trump, who demanded that South Korea drastically increase its payments — by up to five times, according to some reports. Even as he warmed to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, Mr. Trump often accused South Korea of freeloading on American military power.

Negotiations dragged on for a year and a half, but began making progress after President Biden took office and vowed to restore alliances around the world.

Over the weekend, the United States and South Korea agreed to a five-year deal to increase the military payments, subject to legislative approval in both capitals. Under the agreement, South Korea will pay $1 billion this year, 13.9 percent more than its annual payments in 2019 and 2020, officials said on Wednesday. From next year through 2025, South Korea will increase its portion annually at the same rate it boosts its defense budget — at an average of 6.1 percent per year until 2025.

met North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, three times to try to end the North’s nuclear weapons program, while the allies suspended or scaled down their joint military drills to support the diplomacy. Mr. Trump shocked many in South Korea, especially conservatives, by calling such exercises on the Korean Peninsula “tremendously expensive” and “very provocative.”

ardent champion of diplomacy with North Korea and helped arrange the summit meetings between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim. He says that a breakthrough in denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang would spawn a political détente on the Korean Peninsula and help realize his dream of increasing economic ties between the two Koreas.

Mr. Moon’s government hopes that the Biden administration will follow up on the diplomacy started by Mr. Trump rather than going back to former President Obama’s policy of “strategic patience,” which focused on squeezing North Korea with sanctions.

After his diplomacy with Mr. Trump failed to lift sanctions against his country, Mr. Kim vowed to further advance his country’s nuclear capabilities, declaring that it would build new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles and make its nuclear warheads lighter and more precise.

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