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US climate envoy Kerry in China, 1st senior Biden official to visit

This combined photo shows U.S. climate envoy John Kerry (left, Getty) and Xie Zhenhua, special representative on climate affairs for China. (Kyodo)

SHANGHAI (Kyodo) -- U.S. climate envoy John Kerry arrived in Shanghai on Wednesday for discussions with his Chinese counterpart on efforts to tackle climate change, becoming the first senior official under the administration of President Joe Biden to visit China.

    The Chinese Foreign Ministry said earlier in the day that during his visit to Shanghai, Kerry is scheduled to hold talks with Xie Zhenhua, special representative on climate affairs for China, the world's largest carbon emitter.

    Kerry visited Shanghai as requested by the Chinese side, the ministry said, as years of strained relations between the world's two major powers have shown few sign of improving even after Biden took office in January.

    The United States, the second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, has expressed hope to work with China on combating the impacts of global warming despite their increasing rivalry for military and economic supremacy as well as ongoing bilateral confrontation, including in areas related to human rights, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

    The talks in Shanghai are aimed at "raising global climate ambition" ahead of a virtual climate summit Biden is planning to host next week and a U.N. climate change conference scheduled later this year, the White House said Tuesday.

    Kerry is also scheduled to travel to Seoul later this week.

    Attention is growing on whether the talks will lead to an easing of tensions after a meeting between the two countries' top diplomats in Alaska in March exposed deep divisions over each other's policies and visions for the international order.

    Biden, who has made climate change issues a priority in his foreign policy, has invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to join the two-day climate summit starting April 22.

    China has said it is "seriously considering" whether Xi will participate in the online gathering.

    White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the details of the summit are yet to be finalized, including whether there will be bilateral meetings, but the Biden administration is approaching its relationship with Beijing as one "not of conflict but of competition."

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