CIA Director William Burns secretly visited China last month in an effort to restore relations with Beijing amid a tense relationship with the Biden administration following the shooting down of a Chinese surveillance balloon that traversed the United States earlier this year.
Burns met with his Chinese counterparts to emphasize “the importance of maintaining open lines of communication in intelligence channels,” according to the Financial Times, which first reported the visit.
Dialogue between the Biden administration and Beijing has been nearly dormant in recent months as attempts at interactions have been shuttered since the ballon incident.
A previously scheduled trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken where he was expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping was canceled. In addition, a phone call between Xi and Biden that was expected has not yet come to fruition.
On Monday, China said it had declined an offer to have U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin meet with Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu. On Friday, the pair did shake hands during the opening dinner of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
The pair spoke briefly, but there were no meaningful exchanges, officials said.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with his Chinese counterpart earlier this month, as did Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. However, the Pentagon confirmed the meeting of defense leaders was declined.
Diplomatic relations between Washington and Beijing deteriorated rapidly after the military shot down a Chinese spy ballon detected in American airspace that traveled across the U.S. in February. China criticized the shoot down.
“Across the globe there are many balloons in the sky from different countries. Do you want to down each and every one of them?,” Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said at the time. “It does not show America is strong, on the contrary, it shows the opposite.”
In addition, Beijing has taken umbrage after the U.S. warned China against arming Russia to help its war in Ukraine.
U.S. intelligence concluded that Chinese officials were considering providing Moscow with lethal aid.