President Joe Biden on Monday said the US was not looking for a conflict with China and dismissed fears of a “new Cold War” following a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia.
Biden said did not believe China had "imminent" plans to invade Taiwan as he gave an upbeat assessment of his talks with Xi, his first face-to-face meeting with the Chinese leader since taking office.
"I do not think there is any imminent attempt on the part of China to invade Taiwan," Biden told a news conference after the talks in Bali.
Biden also stressed that there was no change in Washington’s One-China policy and said the US opposed any unilateral change to the status quo on Taiwan.
Xi and Biden both sought to lower the temperature as they met for more than two hours on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, with the presidents both saying they wanted to prevent high tensions from spilling over into conflict.
"It's just great to see you," Biden told Xi as he put an arm around him, adding in remarks delivered in front of reporters that he was committed to keeping lines of communication open on a personal and government level.
"As the leaders of our two nations, we share responsibility, in my view, to show that China and the United States can manage our differences, prevent competition from ... turning into conflict, and to find ways to work together on urgent global issues that require our mutual cooperation."
Speaking to reporters in Bali, Biden said he had an “open and candid conversation” with his Chinese counterpart on US intentions and priorities. A White House readout of the meeting said, “Biden explained that the United States will continue to compete vigorously” with China, while reiterating that, “this competition should not veer into conflict”.
The US and China “must manage the competition responsibly and maintain open lines of communication", said the readout.
In a sign of the bilateral headway following the meeting, the White House announced that Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit China – the most senior US visitor since 2018.
‘First red line’
Tensions have risen sharply over Taiwan, with China in August conducting major military exercises after a visit to the self-governing democracy, which it claims, by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Xi told Biden that Taiwan is the "first red line that must not be crossed in China-US relations", according to the Chinese foreign ministry statement.
Despite the clash on Taiwan, the White House indicated it had found some common ground with China on Russia's invasion of Ukraine – a high priority for Biden who is hoping to deprive Moscow of its key potential source of international support.
Xi and Biden "reiterated their agreement that a nuclear war should never be fought and can never be won and underscored their opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine", the White House statement said.
China, despite rhetorical support for Russia, has not supplied weapons for the war in Ukraine, with Moscow obliged to rely on Iran and North Korea, according to US officials.
Biden calls on China to rein in North Korea
Biden also nudged China to rein in ally North Korea after a record-breaking spate of missile tests has raised fears that Pyongyang will soon carry out its seventh nuclear test.
China had an obligation to attempt to talk North Korea out of conducting a seventh nuclear test, Biden told reporters in Bali. He however admitted that it was unclear whether China had the ability to do so.
"It's difficult to determine whether or not China has the capacity," said Biden. But he stressed that, "all members of the international community have an interest in encouraging” North Korea to act responsibly.
Although Monday’s meeting was the first time Xi and Biden have met as presidents, the pair have an unusually long history together.
By Biden’s estimation, he spent 67 hours as vice president in person with Xi including on a 2011 trip to China aimed at better understanding China's then-leader-in-waiting, and a 2017 meeting in the final days of Barack Obama's administration.
On Tuesday, Xi will hold the first formal sitdown with an Australian leader since 2017, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced, following a concerted pressure campaign by Beijing against the close US ally.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)