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China suggests giant pandas could return to US by end of 2024

China reaffirmed Friday the U.S. could see the return of giant pandas by the end of the year, as long as the two countries can peacefully coexist.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the announcement Friday at an anniversary celebration marking 45 years since China and the U.S. established diplomatic relations, The Associated Press reported.

Giant pandas at the Memphis, Tenn., and Washington, D.C., zoos returned to China last fall. The move caused some to worry that rising tensions between Washington and Beijing could lead China to cut off the lending program altogether — depriving U.S. zoos of the bears.

Chinese President Xi Jinping raised hope for California in November at a San Francisco summit, when he said Beijing was ready to continue cooperating with the U.S. on panda conservation. He added China will do its “best to meet the wishes of the Californians so as to deepen the friendly ties between our two peoples.”

At the event Friday, Wang said “preparations are ready for a giant panda return to California within the year.”

The panda exchange program with China began under an agreement brokered by then-President Nixon in 1973 and has led to several of the popular animals being loaned to U.S. zoos for research purposes. The only remaining pandas in the U.S. are at the Atlanta Zoo, with that agreement set to expire this year.

Wang pointed to the recent meeting between President Biden and Xi as optimism for future relations. He added that the two leaders also recently exchanged congratulatory letters marking the anniversary of diplomacy.

“China-U.S. cooperation is no longer a dispensable option for the two countries or even for the world, but a must-answer question that must be seriously addressed,” Wang said at the 300-person event in Beijing.

China and the U.S. are attempting to navigate new relations following the November meeting between Biden and Xi. As Beijing continues to rise economically and militarily, and tensions flare over self-governed Taiwan, questions remain on how the two global powers can coexist.

“The world is currently undergoing profound changes unseen in a century,” Wang said at the event. “We must think about how to calibrate the direction of the large ship of China-U.S. relations [and] avoid hidden reefs and dangerous shoals.”

Nicholas Burns, the U.S. ambassador to China, said in December that relations between the two countries are not necessarily improving, but he remains hopeful for the future.

The Associated Press contributed.

Source: The Hill

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