Politics Biden and China's Xi discuss tensions over Taiwan

Biden and China’s Xi discuss tensions over Taiwan

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Taiwanese honor guards stand under the national flag during a military ceremony in front of the presidential office in Taipei on March 9.

Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images


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Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images


Taiwanese honor guards stand under the national flag during a military ceremony in front of the presidential office in Taipei on March 9.

Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images

According to the White House, President Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping had a “direct and honest” conversation about tensions over Taiwan, as part of a multi-issue call that lasted more than two hours on Thursday.

The White House says the leaders also discussed planning for a future face-to-face meeting, which would be their first since Biden took office.

Biden appeared to try to play down Chinese concerns over reports of a possible trip by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, an island China claims as its territory but governs itself with an independent political system.

The White House says Biden assured Xi on Thursday that US policy on Taiwan has not changed. For decades, the US has officially maintained “strategic ambivalence” about Taiwan’s independence, maintaining friendly relations with the island, without formal diplomatic ties.

“On Taiwan, President Biden underscored that United States policy has not changed and that the United States strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” an official US readout of Thursday’s call said.

Beijing’s readout said the “one-China principle is the political foundation of Sino-US relations,” referring to Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of a single Chinese nation.

The two leaders also discussed differences over US tariffs and the global implications of the conflict in Ukraine.

Tensions over Taiwan have been rising for months

This spring, Biden angered Beijing when he said his administration was willing to use military force to defend the island, which it later backed off.

White House officials said the call had been in the works for weeks as part of an ongoing effort by the administration to manage the relationship.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday that “President Biden strongly believes in having a similar relationship with nations with which you may have significant disagreements.”

After the call, a senior administration official told reporters that Biden and Xi “discussed the fact that the United States and China have differences over Taiwan,” adding that those differences have been managed and maintained for more than 40 years. An open line of communication is essential on this topic

But the call took center stage when news leaked that Pelosi was planning to travel to the self-governing island. It will be the highest delegation from the United States in 25 years.

China has warned that it will take “resolute and strong measures” if Pelosi completes the visit.

The split over Taiwan comes at a time of several challenges between the two superpowers: the Russian invasion of Ukraine, US tariffs and Chinese aggression in the Pacific.

The White House has been pressed for weeks about Pelosi’s potential trip. Last week, Biden told reporters that the US military was against the idea of ​​the House Speaker going to Taiwan.

But Biden must be careful not to appear to be pandering to the Chinese, as politicians on both sides of the aisle argue publicly that Pelosi should not back down to the Chinese government’s warnings.

On Thursday, the Chinese readout warned against external interference that encourages Taiwan independence. “Those who play with fire will perish. Here’s hoping America pays attention,” the readout said.
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