NEW YORK — United States (US) Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the UN Security Council on Tuesday (Oct 24) that he will work with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, to prevent the conflict in the Middle East from spreading when they meet later this week.
Mr Blinken called on the 15-member council to help contain the conflict, amid soaring tensions after Palestinian militant group Hamas’ attacks on Israel on Oct 7.
“Members of this council, and permanent members in particular, have a special responsibility to prevent this conflict from spreading,” Mr Blinken said, warning Iran and its proxies in the region not to open up more fronts in the war.
“I look forward to continuing to work with my counterpart from the People’s Republic of China to do precisely that, when he visits Washington later this week,” he said.
Washington does not seek conflict with Iran, Mr Blinken said, but warned that it would act swiftly and decisively if Tehran or its proxies attack US personnel anywhere.
Mr Wang is set to arrive in the United States on Thursday for talks with Blinken and President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, as Washington seeks to ensure the intense competition between the world’s two largest economies and their disagreements over a host of issues from trade to Taiwan and the South China Sea do not veer into conflict.
Mr Blinken is expected to meet with Mr Wang on Thursday afternoon. White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said the Chinese minister would also meet with Sullivan and Mr Blinken on Friday. She said they would address challenging issues, including misperceptions and miscommunications, and ways they can work together.
US officials are keen for Beijing to use its influence with Iran and other countries in the Middle East to help prevent the conflict there from spreading.
Analysts said that while China had expressed concern about the US approach to the conflict, the two sides share a common interest in avoiding a wider regional war.
“That might be a basis for some common ground, even if China likely sees some benefits to the hit the United States is taking in the region among its Arab partners,” said Dalia Dassa Kaye, a senior fellow at the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations.
However, she said Beijing’s actual leverage could be limited, while others questioned Beijing’s willingness to use it.
Jon Alterman, head of the Middle East program at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said China, as a major oil consumer, certainly has an interest in preventing a direct US-Iranian confrontation as it would spike oil prices.
“Still, the Chinese are unlikely to do any heavy lifting here,” he said. “I expect they’ll want a seat at the table when the Israel-Gaza struggle gets resolved, but they don’t feel much need or ability to hasten resolution.”
Israel’s bombing and siege of Gaza in response to the Hamas attacks have stirred anger in Muslim-majority countries, and Washington fears an imminent ground offensive could spark a wider conflict.
China has consistently called for restraint and a ceasefire in response to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, but has also sharpened its criticism of Israel. REUTERS