On Monday, when Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be on his way to India, his deputy, Wendy Sherman, will be in China representing the interests of the US and its allies during talks with Beijing's top diplomats delivering a tough US message that it will act to defend its interests, according to senior administration officials.
"The deputy secretary is going to represent the US interests and values and those of our allies and partners. We're going to do it honestly and directly," a senior official said on Saturday.
"We're redefining this relationship... not going to be afraid to take steps when we see that our interests have to be defended," the official asserted.
Senior US officials briefed reporters ahead of Sherman's scheduled meetings with Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Tianjin on Monday during a trip to Asia that has taken her to Japan, South Korea and Mongolia.
Blinken, who will be on his way to India on Monday, is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday when China is expected to figure in their talks.
But before the US-India meetings, China's President Xi Jin Ping moved the border row between China and India up a notch by going to an area in China close to the border with India.
And sending a message directed at India, China's news agency Xinhua quoted him as saying in Lhasa, "China will strengthen infrastructure construction along the border, and encourages people of various minorities to set their roots at the border, to defend the territory and build the homeland."
The meetings in Tianjin comes amid rising tensions between China and US over a wide range of issues, most recently over cybercrimes and the clampdown on democracy in Hong Kong.
A senior official said, "I anticipate very clearly that she (Sherman) will be not only representing the United States, but she will be standing up and advocating her positions that are shared around the world."
Sherman's visit is the first high-level meeting between US and Chinese officials after Blinken and Yang Jiechi, the Chinese Communist Party's head of foreign affairs, met in March in Alaska.
That meeting deteriorated into an angry showdown before the media with both sides trading accusations and proclaiming defiance.
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