(BBC News) The U.S. and China have agreed to resume military-to-military communications in an effort to ease rising tensions, President Joe Biden says.
“We’re back to direct, open, clear communications,” he said following a rare meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping in California on Wednesday.
It was the first time the pair had spoken in person in more than a year.
Biden said both leaders had agreed to establish a direct line of communication with one another.
At a news conference following the summit, which took place at a historic country estate near San Francisco, Biden said a lack of communication was “how accidents happen” and added that both presidents could now “pick up the phone and be directly heard immediately.”
China severed military-to-military communications last year after then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. Beijing views self-ruled Taiwan as its territory, and has threatened to annex it by force if necessary.
Biden said that, while many disagreements remained between the pair, Xi had “just been straight.” He said the talks were “some of the most constructive and productive discussions we’ve had.”
But in a sign of how difficult relations still are, Biden, as he was exiting the stage, responded to a reporter’s question by saying he considered Xi a dictator.
“He’s a dictator in the sense that he is a guy who runs a country… based on a form of government that is totally different from ours,” he said. When Biden made a similar comment in June, Chinese officials reacted angrily and described it as “extremely absurd and irresponsible.”