Asst. Sec. of State Blows off Congressional Hearing on China Just Ahead of Blinken Trip

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool, File

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink raised eyebrows in early June when his trip to China coincided with the anniversary of Tiananmen Square. As RedState’s Nick Arama noted at the time:


China’s been blowing off taking a call from Joe, treating him like a servant. Meanwhile, Biden has been acting like a scorned lover, desperate to reconnect with the Chinese, which makes him look weak. But what he did on the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre — when China killed hundreds of pro-democracy protesters — was next-level ignorant and just gave China a big win.

Biden sent Daniel Kritenbrink, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and Sarah Beran, the National Security Council’s senior director for China and Taiwan affairs, to Beijing on Sunday to discuss “key issues in the bilateral relationship,” according to a release from the State Department.

That foreign relations faux pas was quickly followed by news that Cuba had granted China permission to build a spy facility, posing a serious national security threat to the U.S. Brittany Sheehan reported on that development:

In a shocking development, Cuba has agreed to allow China to build a spying facility on the island. This move will grant the Chinese unfettered access to intercept electronic communications throughout the southeastern United States, according to a source familiar with the highly classified intelligence. The U.S. learned about the plan in the last weeks, and it remains unclear whether China has already begun constructing the surveillance facility.


Later, reports surfaced that, in fact, the Chinese have had a spy base on the island since 2019, so this was not a new development. (Presumably, this somehow makes it better?)

With tensions ratcheting up between the U.S. and China (see, e.g., Chinese spy balloon; overseas “police stations”; warship near-miss), Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to travel to Beijing Friday to meet with senior PRC officials — a trip that was originally scheduled for February, but canceled following the spy balloon incident.

On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Indo-Pacific was set to hold a hearing on “Achieving Peace through Strength in the Indo-Pacific: Examining the FY24 Budget Priorities,” at which Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink was scheduled to be a witness. However, Kritenbrink abruptly canceled the appearance without sending someone in his place.

House Republicans, including Rep. Darrell Issa (CA), were none-too-pleased about the cancelation. Said Issa:

At every turn, Biden has met Chinese challenge not with strength and certitude, but with weakness, concessions and PR coups for Beijing. China will only pocket every surrender from this White House and demand more because they know they’ll get it.


Subcommittee Chairwoman Young Kim (R-CA) also was critical of the move, stating:

Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink could have easily testified to the Indo-Pacific Subcommittee as scheduled on Wednesday before his trip with Secretary Blinken two days later, on Friday. The State Department’s recent engagement with Beijing and refusal to comply with congressional oversight only warrants questions about their strategy to assert U.S. leadership against the Chinese Communist Party.

The CCP’s recent moves toward the United States – from spy balloons to surveillance bases – cannot go unnoticed or unchallenged. I will continue to press for answers and transparency from this administration, so we can hold authoritarian regimes accountable and project strength on the world stage.

Kim directed a letter to Kritenbrink regarding his failure to appear, noting:

On June 12th, you cancelled your appearance at a June 14th House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Indo-Pacific hearing on the State Department Budget for East Asia and the Pacific. Your office cited travel to Beijing with Secretary Blinken as the reason for the cancellation, yet your office also rejected our request to hear from your Deputy. We are concerned this is yet another example of a broader unwillingness to engage with Congress, and potentially hold back on action against the PRC, to defer to upcoming meetings with Beijing.


Stressing the importance of regular engagement with the State Department, particularly on matters related to the East Asia and Pacific Bureau and regarding high-level discussions with PRC officials, Kim added:

The challenges posed by the PRC affect every facet of American life, and it is imperative that representatives of the American people are properly informed of our government’s engagement with our strategic competitor.

The subcommittee is requesting that Kritenbrink appear before them on July 18th, “and be prepared to answer questions about our engagement with PRC officials in addition to our spending programs.”


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