Biden, Xi to hold talks amid new tensions over Taiwan - GulfToday

Biden, Xi to hold talks amid new tensions over Taiwan


US President Joe Biden interacts with China’s President Xi Jinping during a virtual summit in Washington. File/AFP

Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping will speak on Thursday, according to a US official, their first conversation in four months coming amid new tension between Washington and Beijing over China's claims on Taiwan.

The planned talks between the two leaders — the fifth in a series of regular check-ins — have been in the works for weeks. But the possibility of a visit to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top congressional Democrat and second in line of succession to the presidency, has added fresh strain to the complicated relationship.


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Beijing is warning that it will take "forceful measures” should Pelosi visit the self-ruled island of Taiwan that China claims as part of its territory.

The US official declined to be identified ahead of the public announcement. The schedule was first reported by Bloomberg.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attends a meeting. File photo

Pelosi hasn't confirmed plans to visit Taiwan, but Biden last week told reporters that US military officials believed it was "not a good idea” for the speaker to visit the island at the moment. Biden's comments came after the Financial Times reported last week that Pelosi planned to visit Taiwan in August, a trip she had originally planned to make in April but postponed after she tested positive for COVID-19.

The talks between Biden and Xi could also include discussion of North Korea’s nuclear program, differences between Beijing and Washington over Russia’s war in Ukraine, efforts by the Biden administration to revive the Iran nuclear deal and the status of the US administration’s review of tough tariffs imposed on China by the Trump administration.

"There are issues of tension in this relationship,” John Kirby, a national security spokesperson for the White House, said Tuesday. "But there’s also issues where we believe cooperation is not only possible, but mandatory, for instance on climate change, which affects us greatly.”

A Cheng Kung class frigate fires an anti-air missile as part of a navy demonstration during Han Kuang exercises. AP

Long-simmering differences over Taiwan have come into intense focus in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion and ongoing efforts to annex swaths of eastern Ukraine.

As the US scrambled to assemble a global coalition to hit the Russian economy with heavy sanctions following Vladimir Putin’s ordered invasion of Ukraine, Biden warned allies — particularly those in the Indo-Pacific — that Beijing would be watching closely how democracies responded as it considers its next steps on Taiwan.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Friday he fears that Beijing might be gleaning some "concerning” takeaways from the five-month-old war in eastern Europe. But he suggested the moment has also led to careful reflection in Taipei.

"Not as many people ask ‘Is Taiwan learning lessons from Ukraine?’ and you can bet they are,” Sullivan said during an appearance at the Aspen Security Forum. "They’re learning lessons about citizen mobilization and territorial defense. They’re learning lessons about information warfare, and how to set the information space. And they’re learning lessons about how to prepare for a potential contingency involving China and they’re working rapidly at that.”

Taiwan navy personnel form up on a navy ship during the annual Han Kuang exercises in Taiwan on Tuesday. AP

Taiwan was a central topic during Biden and Xi’s last call in March, about three weeks after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

China has repeatedly threatened to assert its claim to Taiwan by force, and has dispatched hundreds of sorties in Taiwanese airspace since Biden took office 18 months ago. The US is legally obligated to ensure the self-governing island democracy can defend itself and treats threats to it with grave concern.

The conversation also comes as Biden’s national security and economic aides near the completion of a review of US tariff policy and prepare to make recommendations to the president.

The tariffs imposed under President Donald Trump applied a 25% duty on billions of dollars of Chinese products. The penalties were intended to reduce the US trade deficit and force China to adopt fairer practices.

Associated Press


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