Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Xi and Biden exchange warnings on Taiwan

The U.S. and Chinese leaders have warned each other over Taiwan during a phone call that lasted more than two hours.

President Joe Biden told Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping that the U.S. strongly opposed any unilateral moves to change the island’s status, the BBC reports.

But he added that U.S. policy on Taiwan had not changed.

Beijing said Xi had told Biden to abide by the one-China principle, warning him that “whoever plays with fire will get burnt.”

Tensions over the issue have increased ahead of a rumoured plan for U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit Taiwan.

The state department says Pelosi has not announced any travel, but China has warned of “serious consequences” if she were to proceed with such a visit.

Last week, Biden told reporters “the military thinks it’s not a good idea,” but his White House has called Chinese rhetoric against such a trip “clearly unhelpful and not necessary.”

Pelosi, who is next in line to the presidency after the vice-president, would be the highest-ranking U.S. politician to travel to Taiwan since 1997.

During Thursday’s phone call, Biden and Xi also discussed arranging a possible face-to-face meeting, a senior Biden administration official said, describing the bilateral as “direct” and “honest.”

When Biden was U.S. vice-president, he hosted Xi during a visit to the U.S. by the Chinese leader in 2015, but they have not met in person during Biden’s presidency.

China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that must become a part of the country — and has not ruled out the possible use of force to achieve this.

Under the one-China policy, Washington does not recognize Taipei diplomatically. But the U.S. sells weapons to the democratically self-governed island so that it can defend itself.

The White House said that apart from Taiwan, the two leaders discussed a range of other issues, including climate change and health security.

The Biden administration has been considering whether to lift Trump-era tariffs on Chinese imports, arguing that such a move could ease soaring U.S. inflation. But Biden did not discuss that issue with Xi on Thursday, the senior U.S. official said.


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