CIA Director William Burns made a secret visit to China last month, according to the Financial Times, citing a US official.
Burns is one of the most prominent and trusted aides to US President Joe Biden, as the newspaper pointed out that his travel in particular to Beijing is a sign of the White House’s concern about the deterioration of relations between the two countries.
The Financial Times quoted officials familiar with the issue that Burns, a former senior diplomat often assigned to sensitive foreign assignments, had traveled to China for important talks with officials there.
The visit, the largest to China by a Biden administration official, comes as Washington presses for high-level contacts with Beijing to try to stabilize the relationship.
Burns’ visit is also the highest visit by a US official to Beijing, since US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s visit to Tianjin, China, in July 2021.
It’s noteworthy that well-informed people reported that Biden sent Burns, last year, to the Capitol building to try to persuade the then US House Speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, not to travel to Taiwan, a visit that greatly angered Beijing.
The White House and the CIA declined to comment on reports of the visit, but a US official said Burns met with Chinese intelligence officials during the trip.
The US official also confirmed that, “Last month, Burns traveled to Beijing, where he met with his Chinese counterparts, and emphasized the importance of maintaining open lines of communication in intelligence channels”.