Joe Biden and Xi Jinping signal their desire to improve relations despite Taiwan tensions

Joe Biden and Xi Jinping used their first face-to-face meeting as leaders to signal their desire to improve US-China relations after relations between the two powers fell to their lowest point in history. many decade.

With tensions over Taiwan looming over the meeting, the leaders agreed that senior officials would “maintain in touch” on a range of global issues, including climate change, economic stability and food security, the White House announcement of the meeting said. The US president later said that Secretary of State Antony Blinken would visit China for further negotiations.

At a news conference after the three-hour meeting, Biden said he had told Xi that U.S. policy toward Taiwan had not “changed at all” and that Washington remained committed to resolving tensions in a timely manner. peaceful way. But the White House said the president had privately expressed concern to Xi about China’s “increasingly aggressive” actions toward Taiwan.

China’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Xi had warned Biden that Taiwan was “at the core of China’s core interests” and that the issue was “the first red line not to be overtaking in Sino-American relations”.

Biden said he was “not looking for conflict” and that he wanted to manage the US-China competition responsibly. “I absolutely believe there is no need for a new cold war,” the president said.

Relations between Washington and Beijing hit a new low in August when China staged large-scale military exercises around Taiwan, including firing missiles over the island, after Nancy Pelosi became the first US House Speaker to visit Taipei in a quarter of a century.

Beijing also closed a number of military and diplomatic channels, including cutting off communications with Washington on issues like climate change, in response to the crisis. The situation has also raised concerns about possible accidental conflict and has prompted Washington to increasingly consider the possibility of a future war between the world’s two largest economies.

But a more positive note came on Monday with the leaders’ first face-to-face meeting, following five previous discussions by phone and videoconference.

“In a few months, we could look back to the Biden-Xi meeting as the first signs of an inflection point starting to decelerate the spiral,” said Jessica Chen Weiss, a China expert at Cornell University. towards conflict”.

“It is encouraging that both sides have agreed to empower senior officials to develop foundational principles for the relationship and working groups to make progress on specific issues,” Chen said. Weiss added.

While Biden’s public statements were diplomatic, the White House said he expressed concern about China’s policy toward Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

U.S. officials have increasingly warned of a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan, but Biden has played down those concerns. “I don’t think there is any imminent attempt on the part of China to invade Taiwan,” he said.

Evan Medeiros, a former top White House China adviser who accompanied Biden when he met Xi in Beijing in 2013, said it was too early to say whether the Bali meeting would help improve relations between the two powers. States or not, in part because there is no sign that they have found common ground on Taiwan.

Medeiros, now at Georgetown University, said: “When you put aside all the glitz and drama, Taiwan is the central issue and the determining factor in the speed of the overall relationship. “The meeting in Bali revealed that the best thing both sides can do right now is to reduce misunderstandings about existing positions. That was inherently fragile. In fact, gaining new insights seems a long way off.”

Biden said the two leaders discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and “reaffirmed our shared belief that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is completely unacceptable.” However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry did not mention the possibility of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine in its statement.

John Lee, a China expert at the Hudson Institute, warned that the US should not take Xi’s word when he made promises to Washington.

“Any verbal agreement with Mr. Xi should not be relied upon or taken seriously because of the Chinese leader’s long history of saying one thing and doing another,” Lee said, adding that Biden should take full advantage of the situation. Use attending the G20 to work with allies and partners to contain China.

The Biden-Xi talks were held on the island of Bali the night before G20 summithosted by Indonesia.

They come as CIA director Bill Burns warned Russia about the use of nuclear weapons in the first known face-to-face meeting between senior officials of the two countries since President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Burns made his warning at a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Naryshkin in Ankara, Turkey, on Monday, the US said.

Additional reporting by Kathrin Hille in Taipei

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