US Presidents Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping exchanged warnings about the island of Taiwan, during a phone call between them that lasted more than two hours.
Biden told his Chinese counterpart that the United States firmly opposes any unilateral moves that would change the situation on the island.
But he added that US policy on Taiwan has not changed.
Beijing said that President Xi asked Biden to adhere to the “one China” principle, warning him that “those who play with fire will be burned with it.”
Tensions over Taiwan have risen recently, in light of reports that US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is planning a visit to Taiwan.
The US State Department says Pelosi has not announced any travel, but China has warned of “serious consequences” if the visit goes ahead.
Last week, Biden told reporters that “the military thinks the visit is not a good idea,” but the White House called Chinese rhetoric against such a trip “clearly unhelpful and unnecessary.”
And in the event of her visit, Pelosi, who is second in eligibility to assume the presidency after the vice president in the event of a vacancy, will be the most senior American politician to travel to the island since 1997.
face to face meeting
A senior Biden administration official said the US and Chinese presidents also discussed arranging a possible face-to-face meeting between them, describing relations between the two countries as “direct” and “honest.”
Biden hosted President Xi in Washington, when he was Vice President Barack Obama, during the Chinese leader’s visit to the United States in 2015.
But the two men have not met in person since Biden took office.
China considers Taiwan a breakaway province that should become part of the country. It did not rule out the possibility of using force to achieve this.
Under the “one China” policy, Washington does not diplomatically recognize Taiwan, but sells arms to the democratically autonomous island so that it can defend itself.
Following the call, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said Friday that it will continue to deepen its close security partnership with the United States.
The White House said the two leaders, along with Taiwan, discussed a range of other issues, including climate change and health security.
The Biden administration is considering whether to raise tariffs imposed on Chinese imports under former US President Donald Trump. She says such a move could ease high inflation in the United States.
But the senior US official said the US president did not discuss the issue with President Xi on Thursday.
Analysts believe that both Joe Biden and Xi Jinping want to avoid open conflict between their countries, according to the BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher at the US State Department.
But neither of the two men made any attempt to alter the competitive rhetoric between them, which was once again demonstrated in their statements about Thursday’s call.
In a brief summary of the call, the White House said it was part of efforts to “responsibly manage differences” and work together when “interests align.”
As for Beijing, it said in a more detailed report that many of the two countries’ interests coincide. But she blamed the United States for the deterioration of the relationship, and criticized the Biden administration’s view of China as the “primary competitor” and “the most dangerous long-term challenge” for Washington.
Analysis by Robert Wingfield Hayes, Taiwan
Much has been said about President Xi’s warning to Biden that “those who play with fire will be burned with it.”
It is indeed a strong warning to America – but it is not unprecedented.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry used the same language when a US congressional delegation visited Taiwan earlier this year.
The Chinese Ministry of Defense also used the same phrase in a warning to Taiwan last year.
It is true that such a warning from President Xi gives him more weight.
But this does not mean that China is preparing for military action against Taiwan, if – for example – Nancy Pelosi arrives here next week.
Instead, it is telling America that if it continues down the current path, it will eventually lead to conflict.
All in all, it is difficult to see anything positive from this phone call regarding the broader relationship between the United States and China
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