Biden to speak to China’s Xi on Taiwan, Ukraine, Philippines

April 3, 2024 - 10:53 AM
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks, following a hostages-prisoners swap deal between Hamas and Israel, during a press conference in Nantucket, Massachusetts, U.S., November 26, 2023. (Reuters/Tom Brenner)

 U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will hold their first direct talks Tuesday since meeting in November, with Biden looking to keep tensions from mounting ahead of Taiwan’s presidential inauguration in May.

Biden will use the call to reaffirm the U.S.’s support for Beijing’s “One China policy” and reiterate the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, said a senior administration official, who did not wish to be named.

Biden and Xi agreed in November to reopen military communications and cooperate to curb fentanyl production. They haven’t spoken on the phone since July 2022. After November’s meeting, Biden told reporters he had not changed his view that Xi is a dictator, a comment that irked China.

China regards Taiwan, a self-governed island with democratic elections, as part of its territory and recently dropped language about a “peaceful reunification” from its budget. Taiwan strongly objects to China’s sovereignty claims and says only the island’s people can decide their future.

Taiwan’s current Vice President Lai Ching-te, who Beijing views a separatist, won the presidency in January and Beijing has increased pressure on Taiwan ahead of the inauguration in May.

On Tuesday, Biden and Xi will also discuss concerns over China’s support for Russia’s war against Ukraine, its economic trade practices, human rights abuses in Xinjiang and discuss the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, the U.S. official said.

Biden is also likely to warn Beijing over escalating confrontations in the South China Sea, which China claims almost entirely, in conflict with international law.

“The President may also express concern over destabilizing PRC actions in the South China Sea, including the dangerous recent action of the PRC Coast Guard against routine Philippine maritime operations”, the official said.

Rebounding relations

Biden and Xi have continued their talks looking to smooth over a rocky period in relations that took a turn for the worse after a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon transited the United States and was shot down by a U.S. fighter jet last year.

Relations have shown signs of improvement in recent months as both sides took steps to re-establish channels of communication after ties between the two global superpowers sank to their lowest levels in decades.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in January followed by a February meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will travel to China in April.

Biden and Xi will also talk about ways to manage competition, avoid conflict and keep lines of communication open.

“Intense competition requires intense diplomacy to manage tensions, address mis-perceptions and prevent unintended conflict. And this call is one way to do that,” the senior U..S administration official said.

The Biden administration has imposed bans on the sale of certain technologies to Chinese companies, citing national security risks. China has accused Washington of “weaponizing” economic and trade issues.

The two leaders will also discuss a number of areas where U.S. and Chinese interests align, including counternarcotics efforts, risk and safety issues related to artificial intelligence, resumption of military-to-military communications and efforts to fight climate change, the official said.

— Reporting by Nandita Bose and David Lawder in Washington, Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Heather Timmons and Michael Perry