CIA Director Burns Met Chinese Leaders in Beijing as Washington Tries to Thaw Tensions

William Burns, center, enters a car after arriving at Capital International Airport in Beijing, May 1, 2012. (AP)
William Burns, center, enters a car after arriving at Capital International Airport in Beijing, May 1, 2012. (AP)
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CIA Director Burns Met Chinese Leaders in Beijing as Washington Tries to Thaw Tensions

William Burns, center, enters a car after arriving at Capital International Airport in Beijing, May 1, 2012. (AP)
William Burns, center, enters a car after arriving at Capital International Airport in Beijing, May 1, 2012. (AP)

CIA Director William Burns went to Beijing in May to meet with Chinese counterparts, a US official said on Friday, in what is the highest level visit by a Biden administration official since a suspected Chinese spy balloon was shot down by American forces.

Burns' visit, first reported by The Financial Times, comes as Washington tries to cool tensions with Beijing over the balloon and other recent conflicts between the world's two largest economies and geopolitical rivals.

US officials have long warned that China rejects their efforts at outreach. That raises the possibility of miscommunication spiraling into conflict, they say.

“Last month, Director Burns traveled to Beijing where he met with Chinese counterparts and emphasized the importance of maintaining open lines of communication in intelligence channels,” said a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Burns' schedule, which is classified.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also spoke “briefly” Friday with Li Shangfu, China's minister of national defense, at the opening dinner of a security forum in Singapore. China had earlier rejected Austin's request for a meeting on the sidelines of the forum.

President Joe Biden has often sent Burns on sensitive trips to meet US adversaries. Burns went to Moscow in late 2021 to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin about indications that Russia was gearing up to launch a new invasion of Ukraine.



Azerbaijan Proposes Document on Principles of Peace before Full Deal with Armenia

FILE PHOTO: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev delivers a speech at the 10th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and the 2nd Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, March 1, 2024. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev delivers a speech at the 10th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and the 2nd Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, March 1, 2024. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov/File Photo
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Azerbaijan Proposes Document on Principles of Peace before Full Deal with Armenia

FILE PHOTO: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev delivers a speech at the 10th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and the 2nd Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, March 1, 2024. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev delivers a speech at the 10th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and the 2nd Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, March 1, 2024. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov/File Photo

Azerbaijan is proposing to sign a document with Armenia on the basic principles of a future peace treaty as an interim measure as they wrangle over a broader deal, a senior Azerbaijani official said on Sunday.
Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have repeatedly said they want to sign a peace treaty to end the conflict over the former breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh, reported Reuters.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said on Saturday a text of a treaty was 80%-90% ready but repeated it was impossible to sign it before Armenia amended its constitution to remove an indirect reference to Karabakh independence, which Armenia has rejected.
Karabakh's ethnic Armenian inhabitants enjoyed de facto independence from Azerbaijan for more than three decades until September 2023, when a lightning Azerbaijani offensive retook the territory and prompted around 100,000 Armenians to flee.
Both countries have in recent months sought to make progress on the peace treaty, including the demarcation of borders, with Armenia agreeing to hand over to Azerbaijan four contested border villages.
A document on the basic principles could be considered as a temporary measure and form the basis of the bilateral ties and ensure neighborly relations between the two countries, Hikmet Hajiyev, foreign policy adviser to the president, told Reuters.
It can be signed until Azerbaijan holds COP29 climate summit in November, Hajiyev added.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in June that a peace treaty with Azerbaijan was close to completion but that his country would not accept its demands that it change its constitution.
After he made those comments, clashes broke out between police and demonstrators, the latest in a series of protests denouncing his policies, including the handing back of ruined villages to Azerbaijan, and demanding his resignation.
On July 5, Constitution Day in Armenia, Pashinyan said the country needed a new constitution "which the people will consider to be what they created, what they accepted, what is written in it is their idea of the state they created and the relations between people and citizens in that state".