‘What I hate to see is us to find ourselves in a situation where the CCP is making demands on us and that we in some way are acceding to those demands just so we can get some sort of high-level visit over in Beijing and a photo opportunity. We need to be pressing them at every level,’ Hagerty says
WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink to ignore Chinese Communist Party (CCP) demands that the Biden Administration restrain its criticisms of China before it will allow high-level U.S. government officials to visit Beijing. Hagerty urged the Biden Administration instead to release a pending Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report on the Chinese spy balloon incident over the continental United States in February 2023 and to hold China fully accountable for allowing the export of fentanyl precursors that are contributing to the deaths of over 70,000 Americans annually.
Hagerty pointed to a recent Financial Times report that stated “China is refusing to let the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visit Beijing over concerns that the FBI will release the results of an investigation into the downed suspected Chinese spy balloon.”
“[The question that] the Financial Times comment raises is whether our desire to obtain an official visit with China is going to, in any way, affect our decision to release the report, and my question of you is that do you support releasing the FBI report on the Chinese spy balloon prior to any senior level visit to China?” Hagerty asked.
Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink avoided directly answering the question and instead referred Hagerty to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI on the report, but said: “we continue to make clear to our Chinese counterparts that we will always stand up and defend American national interests.” Kritenbrink added the State Department is committed to “managing responsibly this intense competition between the United States and China, and part of that, in our mind, has to involve senior level communication and keeping channels open. It’s the only way to responsibly manage.”
“Even if China conditions that sort of dialogue on meeting their demands, like not releasing the FBI report on the China spy balloon?” Hagerty asked.
“We don’t believe in engagement based on demands and preconditions. We think that responsible nations ought to engage with one another and do everything possible,” Kritenbrink responded.
Hagerty also raised his concern with China’s preconditions for cooperating with the U.S. to address the fentanyl crisis. “Top Chinese officials, including Foreign Minister Qin Gang, have publicly demanded that the United States accept certain preconditions before China will cooperate on fentanyl. China’s preconditions include delisting Chinese entities involved in the Uyghur genocide.”
Hagerty highlighted that, while the Treasury Department has publicly acknowledged China’s role in the fentanyl crisis, the State Department has clearly refrained from doing the same.
“It’s interesting the State Department has actually pulled back any condemnation at the same time that [the Treasury Department has] been willing to go forward and name Chinese entities [in fentanyl sanctions announcements],” Hagerty said. “What I hate to see is us to find ourselves in a situation where the CCP is making demands on us and that we, in some way, are acceding to those demands just so we can get some sort of high-level visit over in Beijing and a photo opportunity. We need to be pressing them at every level.”
“This is absolutely critical that their preconditions not be accepted,” Hagerty concluded.