Here's a look at what U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other top diplomats have been doing this week:
Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal
Blinken is visiting Africa November 15-20, with stops in Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal. He met with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi on Wednesday to discuss urgent regional security, with pulling Ethiopia back from the brink of civil war high on the agenda. At a news conference in Nairobi, Blinken said he and Kenyatta discussed the crisis in Ethiopia and the African effort to resolve it, led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Blinken is set to start events in Nigeria on Thursday, where he is expected to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, security issues and revitalizing democracies.
Blinken's last visit will be with Senegalese President Macky Sall in Dakar "to reaffirm the close partnership between our two countries."
Blinken's trip to Africa comes as the U.S. aims to boost an African Union-led initiative to end the fighting between the Ethiopian government and ethnic Tigrayans.
American journalist Danny Fenster was released Monday after being held in Myanmar for 176 days. Bill Richardson, a former U.S. representative and ambassador to the United Nations, took part in negotiations with the Myanmar junta for Fenster's release, and he called for protection for journalists worldwide.
The United States and China will ease access restrictions on journalists from each other's countries. The State Department said the People's Republic of China was committed to extending visa validity for U.S. journalists to one year. In return, the U.S. committed to do the same for PRC journalists. The PRC also pledged to permit U.S. journalists already in the country to freely depart and return, which they had previously been unable to do, and the U.S. plans to do the same for Chinese journalists.
The journalist reciprocity agreement discussed between working-level officials came before U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a virtual meeting Monday to ensure that the competition between the two countries "does not veer into conflict."
Blinken participated in the virtual meeting, where senior officials from the U.S. and China held "an extended discussion" on Taiwan. Biden clarified U.S. interests, ensuring there were "no unilateral changes to the status quo" across the Taiwan Strait. And, according to a senior U.S. administration official, Biden was "quite direct about his concerns about some of Beijing's behavior that he believes is at odds with" peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
Blinken designated China, Russia and eight other countries as violators of religious freedom. In a statement Wednesday, he said that the 10 countries "engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom." Other countries on this year's list are Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Eritrea, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan. Nigeria, which was removed from the list this year, will host Blinken's visit this week.
The U.S. announced sanctions against two high-level Cambodian military officials last week, setting off a storm of invective from Phnom Penh and ratcheting up tensions related to Chinese development around the strategically located Ream Naval Base. In statements about the decision, the U.S. specifically cited corruption related to the naval base, which has become a geopolitical flashpoint between the superpowers as the U.S. worries it may become a Chinese military outpost in the Gulf of Thailand.
Qatar will represent American interests in Afghanistan beginning December 31, Blinken announced last Friday during the U.S.-Qatar strategic dialogue. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul closed after last summer's withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops from Afghanistan, ending the country's 20-year war and leaving it under Taliban control.