Biden, China’s Xi discuss Philippines, Taiwan, Ukraine

The Philippine Star
Biden, China�s Xi discuss Philippines, Taiwan, Ukraine
US President Joe Biden (R) and China's President Xi Jinping (L) shake hands as they meet on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on November 14, 2022.
AFP / Saul Loeb

WASHINGTON – US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping held their first direct talks on Tuesday since meeting in November, with Biden looking to keep tensions from mounting ahead of Taiwan’s presidential inauguration in May.

Biden used the call to emphasize “the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and the rule of law and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea,” the White House said in a statement.

In Manila, a statement from the Chinese embassy said Biden had assured Xi that the US does not want to start a new Cold War with China. The embassy said it was Biden who asked for the phone conversation.

Xi urged the US not to support Taiwan independence, the embassy said. It added that “if the US side is willing to seek mutually beneficial cooperation and share in China’s development dividends, it will always find China’s door openl but if it is adamant on containing China’s hi-tech development and depriving China of its legitimate right to development, China is not going to sit back and watch.”

In response, the Chinese embassy said Biden reiterated that “the United States does not seek a new Cold War, its objective is not to change China’s system, its alliances are not targeted against China, and the US does not support ‘Taiwan independence,’ and the US does not seek conflict with China.”

Biden and Xi agreed in November to reopen military communications and cooperate to curb fentanyl production. They had not 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.

Biden and Xi also discussed concerns over China’s support for Russia’s war against Ukraine, its economic trade practices, human rights abuses in Xinjiang and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, the White House said.

The US president also warned Beijing over escalating confrontations in the South China Sea, which China claims almost entirely, in conflict with international law.

A senior administration official had said earlier that Biden would 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.”

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 US 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. – Michael Punongbayan, Marc Jayson Cayabyab

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