The Biden administration is weighing a plan to lift sanctions on China in order to broker a deal to counter the fentanyl trade, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
The Trump-era sanctions on the Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science, which is accused of committing human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other minority groups in Xinjiang, may be lifted if the plan is enacted, according to the WSJ. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Chinese officials in June and suggested forming a working group to renew fentanyl talks, but China said there must be a lifting of sanctions on the institute.
Fentanyl is largely responsible for the more than 100,000 overdose deaths that occurred in 2021 in the U.S. Illicit fentanyl is made using chemicals from China that are synthesized by the cartels in Mexico before it is smuggled across the U.S. southern border, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
China hasn’t “agreed to anything yet, and we are a little stalled on where to go,” one source familiar with the matter told the WSJ. Secretary of State Antony Blinken didn’t agree to lifting the sanctions while in Beijing, a spokesperson for his office told the WSJ.
“No member of the U.S. delegation offered to lift any sanctions on PRC entities or said we would consider doing so,” Blinken spokesman, Matthew Miller, said. “The Secretary discussed a working group on fentanyl that would allow each side to raise and discuss their concerns, and we continue to call on the PRC to stop the flow of fentanyl precursor chemicals from China to the cartels.”
China has argued to the U.S. that the sanctions on the forensic institute have prevented it from accessing U.S. counternarcotics equipment, according to the WSJ. “If the U.S. genuinely wants to resolve its domestic drug problem, then it should respect the facts, withdraw the sanctions, and stop smearing and scapegoating,” China’s Foreign Ministry said.
The Biden administration announced in May a new sanctions package against Chinese companies involved in the illicit fentanyl trade. China was absent from a recently-formed global coalition countering illicit fentanyl.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said last week that the U.S. needs China’s cooperation to counter the threat of illicit fentanyl. “China bears responsibility,” Mayorkas said. “We need their assistance in interdicting the chemicals and pill presses that are going in volumes that don’t reflect legitimate use.”
Kemp Chester, assistant director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, testified to Congress on July 12 that China has chosen “not to engage” with the U.S. on such efforts to counter the drug threat. “As of late, over more than a year, for a variety of reasons, the PRC has decided not to engage with the United States on counter narcotics and a number of other issues. The United States would like that level of cooperation again,” Chester said.
Neither the White House nor the State Department immediately responded to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.
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