U.S. President Joe Biden warned Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping in mid-November 2022 that the United States would enhance its security position in the Indo-Pacific if Beijing cannot rein in North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction programs.
President Biden told a news conference after his first in-person talks with Xi since taking office in early 2021 that they had blunt talks over an array of issues, including Taiwan, that are contributing to the worst U.S.-Chinese ties in decades.
But he said there was no need for a new Cold War and added that he did not believe the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was planning for a real war.
In a statement after their meeting in Bali, Indonesia, Xi called Taiwan the “first red line” that must not be crossed in U.S.-China relations, Chinese state media said.
President Biden said he sought to assure Xi that U.S. policy on Taiwan has not changed, seeking to lower tensions over the self-governed island. “I do not think there’s any imminent attempt on the part of China to invade Taiwan,” he told reporters.
On North Korea, President Biden said that if the PRC can’t curtail Pyongyang’s weapons programs, the U.S. would do more to further protect its allies in the region.
Beijing had halted a series of formal dialogue channels with Washington, including on climate change and military-to-military talks, after a U.S. delegation led by House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi briefly visited Taiwan in August 2022.
Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory and increasingly threatens to seize it by force if necessary, even though the island has never been part of the PRC. Taiwan’s democratically elected government rejects those sovereignty claims.
Beijing and Washington have established a mechanism for more frequent communications, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to China for follow-up discussions, President Biden said. “I think we understand each other,” he said.
Before their talks, President Biden and Xi smiled and shook hands warmly at a Bali hotel, a day before they attended a Group of 20 (G-20) summit of the world’s leading economies hosted by Indonesia. “It’s just great to see you,” President Biden told Xi. (Pictured: U.S. President Joe Biden, right, greets Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping in Bali, Indonesia, in November 2022.)
President Biden raised a number of difficult topics with Xi, according to the White House, including U.S. objections to the PRC’s “coercive and increasingly aggressive actions toward Taiwan,” Beijing’s “non-market economic practices,” and its practices in “Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, and human rights more broadly.”
Xi said before the meeting that the relationship between the PRC and the U.S. was not meeting global expectations, and that “resolving the Taiwan question” is an internal matter of the PRC.
Taiwan’s presidential office said it welcomed President Biden’s reaffirmation of U.S. policy. “This also once again fully demonstrates that the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait is the common expectation of the international community,” it said.
U.S.-China relations have been roiled in recent years by growing tensions over issues including Hong Kong, Taiwan, the South China Sea and trade But U.S. officials said there have been quiet efforts by both nations over the past two months to repair relations.
President Biden and Xi have also held five phone or video calls since January 2021.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told reporters in Bali that the leaders’ meeting aimed to stabilize the relationship and to create a “more certain atmosphere” for U.S. businesses. She said President Biden had been clear with the PRC about national security concerns regarding restrictions on sensitive U.S. technologies and had raised concern about the reliability of Chinese supply chains for commodities.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he hoped the G-20 summit could “deliver concrete partnerships that can help the world in its economic recovery.”
However, Russia’s war in Ukraine was expected to be one of the main topics.
Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin have grown close in recent years and reaffirmed their partnership just days before Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. But Beijing has been careful not to provide any direct material support to Moscow that could trigger Western sanctions against the PRC.
Russia also is accused of threatening to use nuclear weapons as part of its assault on Ukraine.
At an East Asia Summit in Cambodia in mid-November 2022, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang emphasized the “irresponsibility” of nuclear threats, suggesting the PRC is uncomfortable with Russia’s rhetoric, a senior U.S. official said.
IMAGE CREDIT: REUTERS