Biden and Xi clash over Taiwan in Bali but Cold War fears cool

  • Biden and Xi meet 3 hours before G20
  • Both leaders stressed the need to restore ties
  • Indonesia seeks partnerships for the global economy in the G20
  • Ukraine’s Zelensky will address the G20 on Tuesday

NUSA DUA, Indonesia, Nov 14 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping engaged in frank talks on Taiwan and North Korea on Monday in a three-hour meeting aimed at preventing strained U.S.-China relations from escalating in a new Cold War.

Amid simmering differences over human rights, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and support for local industry, the two leaders pledged more frequent communications. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will travel to Beijing for follow-up talks.

“We will compete vigorously. But I’m not looking for conflict, I’m looking to manage this race responsibly,” Biden said after his talks with Xi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia.

Beijing has long said it will bring under its control the self-governing island of Taiwan, which it considers an inalienable part of China, and has not ruled out the use of force to do so. In recent years, it has often accused the United States of promoting Taiwan independence.

In a statement after their meeting, Xi called Taiwan the “first red line” that should not be crossed in US-China relations, Chinese state media reported.

Biden said he tried to reassure Xi that U.S. policy toward Taiwan, which for decades has been to support both Beijing’s “One China” position and Taiwan’s military, has not changed.

He said there was no need for another Cold War and that he did not think China was planning a hot one.

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“I don’t think there is any immediate attempt by China to invade Taiwan,” he told reporters.

As for North Korea, Biden said it was difficult to know whether Beijing had any influence over Pyongyang’s weapons testing. “Well, first of all, it’s hard to say that I’m sure China can control North Korea,” he said.

Biden said he told Xi the United States would do what it had to do to protect itself and its allies South Korea and Japan, which could be “perhaps more in China’s face” even though they were not directed against him.

“We would have to take certain actions that would be more defensive on our behalf … to send a clear message to North Korea.” We will protect our allies, as well as American soil and American capabilities,” he said.

Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said before the meeting that Biden would warn Xi about the possibility of an increased US military presence in the region, something Beijing does not want to see.

Beijing has suspended a series of official dialogue channels with Washington, including on climate change and military-to-military talks, after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi upset China with a visit to Taiwan in August.

Biden and Xi agreed to allow senior officials to resume communication on climate, debt relief and other issues, the White House said after their conversation.

Xi’s statement after the talks included clear warnings about Taiwan.

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“The Taiwan issue is at the core of China’s core interests, the foundation of the political foundation of China-US relations, and the first red line that should not be crossed in China-US relations,” Xi was quoted as saying by Xinhua News Agency.

“Resolving the Taiwan issue is a matter for the Chinese people and China’s internal affairs,” Xi said, according to state media.

Taiwan’s democratically elected government rejects Beijing’s claims of sovereignty over it.

Taiwan’s presidential office said it welcomed Biden’s reaffirmation of US policy. “This once again fully demonstrates that the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait is the common expectation of the international community,” the statement said.

SMILES AND HANDSHAKES

Ahead of their talks, the two leaders smiled and shook hands warmly in front of their national flags at a hotel on the Indonesian island of Bali, a day ahead of a G20 (G20) summit that will be fraught with tension over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s great to see you,” Biden told Xi as he hugged him before their meeting.

According to the White House, Biden raised a number of difficult topics with Xi, including raising U.S. objections to China’s “coercive and increasingly aggressive actions toward Taiwan,” Beijing’s “non-market economic practices” and practices in “Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong and human rights more broadly.”

Neither leader wore a mask to protect against COVID-19, although members of their delegations did.

Relations between the US and China have been rocked in recent years by rising tensions over issues ranging from Hong Kong and Taiwan to the South China Sea, trade practices and US restrictions on Chinese technology.

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But U.S. officials said that over the past two months, Beijing and Washington have made quiet efforts to restore relations.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told reporters in Bali earlier that the meeting was aimed at stabilizing relations and creating a “safer atmosphere” for US business.

She said Biden has been clear with China about national security concerns about restrictions on sensitive American technology and has expressed concerns about the reliability of Chinese goods supply chains.

The host of the G20 summit, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, said he hoped Tuesday’s meeting would “deliver concrete partnerships that can help the world in its economic recovery.”

However, one of the main topics of the G20 will be Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Xi and Putin have grown closer in recent years, bound by their shared distrust of the West, and reaffirmed their partnership just days before Russia invaded Ukraine. But China is careful not to provide any direct material support that could trigger Western sanctions against it.

Reporting by Nandita Bose, Stanley Vidianto, Francisca Nangoi, Leika Kihara, David Loder and Simon Lewis in Nusa Dua and Yu Lun Tien and Ryan Wu in Beijing; additional reporting by Jeff Mason and Steve Holland in Washington; Written by Kay Johnson and Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Angus McSwan, Grant McCool, Heather Timmons and Rosalba O’Brien

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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