Chinese President Xi Jinping tells his American counterpart that Taiwan is the biggest issue in their bilateral ties during face to face meeting Beijing-Washington military hotline back on
Chinese President Xi Jinping told US President Joe Biden during their four-hour meeting on Wednesday that Taiwan was the biggest, most dangerous issue in US-China ties, a senior American official told reporters.
The official quoted Xi as saying China’s preference was for peaceful “reunification” with the Chinese-claimed island of Taiwan, but that he went on to talk about conditions in which force could be used.
Xi was trying to indicate that China is not preparing for a massive invasion of Taiwan, but that does not change the US approach, the official said.
“President Xi … underscored that this was the biggest, most potentially dangerous issue in US-China relations, laid out clearly that, you know, their preference was for peaceful reunification but then moved immediately to conditions that the potential use of force could be utilised,” the senior US official told reporters, referring to Xi’s comments on Taiwan.
Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden at Filoli estate on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, in Woodside, California, U.S., November 15, 2023. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Biden responded by assuring Xi that Washington was determined to maintain peace in the region.
“President Biden responded very clearly that the long-standing position of the United States was … determination to maintain peace and stability,” the official said.
“President Xi responded: look, peace is … all well and good but at some point we need to move towards resolution more generally,” the official said.
China has long taken a carrot and stick approach towards Taiwan, both promising to work for peaceful “reunification” at the same time as threatening force. In the past year and a half China has staged two large-scale war games around the island.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry, responding to the Biden-Xi meeting, said the government has never sought to predict whether or when China might attack but was concentrating on boosting its defenses and winning international support.
This is to “let China understand the high importance the international community attaches to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, the high price of starting a war, and to not act blindly without thinking,” ministry spokesperson Jeff Liu said in Taipei.
Taiwan will neither provoke nor “advance rashly” but will also not succumb to pressure, Liu said.
Biden and Xi met for the first time in a year on Wednesday for talks aimed at easing friction between the two superpowers over military conflicts, drug-trafficking and artificial intelligence, and said they had made “real progress.”
Biden was asked during a solo press conference following the talks whether he would still use the term “dictator” to describe Xi, as he did in June.
“Look, he is. He’s a dictator in the sense that he’s a guy who runs a country that is a communist country that’s based on a form of government totally different than ours,” he responded.
“We’re back to direct, open, clear, direct communications,” Biden said, adding that the contacts would help avoid accidents and misunderstandings during a period of tense relations between the two nuclear-armed states.
“Vital miscalculations on either side can cause real, real trouble with a country like China or any other major country.”
Biden added that the talks with Xi were “some of the most constructive and productive discussions we’ve had,” while acknowledging that the sides still have disagreements.
According to China’s state-run Global Times newspaper, the contacts “based on equality and respect” will include working meetings between defense departments and a bilateral “maritime security consultation mechanism.”
“China does not have a plan to surpass or unseat the United States. Likewise, the United States should not scheme to suppress and contain China,” Xi told Biden, according to Xinhua.
When asked about Biden’s comments during a press briefing on Thursday, Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said the statement was “absolutely wrong” and that Beijing objected to this “irresponsible political manipulation.” She condemned attempts to “sow discord between the two nations.”
China has stepped up military activity to try and force democratically governed Taiwan to accept Beijing’s sovereignty, despite strong objections from Taipei government, which says only the island’s people can decide their future.
Senior U.S. military officers have said that Xi has ordered the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to be prepared to invade Taiwan by 2027. Beijing has not ruled out using force to take the island, though it has never shared details about war preparations.
The US and China have clashed over Taiwan and accused each other of stirring up tensions in the Asia-Pacific and beyond. Relations deteriorated further in early 2023 when the Pentagon claimed Beijing had flown a spy balloon over American territory. China, meanwhile, insisted that the airship was a weather balloon that had veered off course. The sides later traded accusations of dangerous military maneuvers involving fighter jets and warships.