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Xi, Biden cool Cold War rhetoric in landmark summit

US President Joe Biden said he told his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Monday that the United States would enhance its security position in Asia if Beijing is unable to rein in North Korea’s weapons development programmes

By Agencies
November 15, 2022
President Biden and Chinas President Xi Jinping shake hands as they begin talks in Bali. AFP
President Biden and China's President Xi Jinping shake hands as they begin talks in Bali. AFP 

NUSA DUA, Indonesia: US President Joe Biden said he told his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Monday that the United States would enhance its security position in Asia if Beijing is unable to rein in North Korea’s weapons development programmes. 

Biden told a news conference after his first face-to-face talks with Xi since taking power that they had blunt talks over a wide array of issues that are contributing to the worst US-Chinese ties in decades.

In a statement after their meeting, Xi called Taiwan the “first red line” that must not be crossed in US-China relations, Chinese state media said.

Biden said he sought to assure Xi that US policy on Taiwan has not changed, seeking to lower tensions over the self-ruled island. “I do not think there’s any imminent attempt on the part of China to invade Taiwan,” he told reporters.

He said if Beijing is not able to rein in North Korea, the United States would move to further protect US allies in the region. The two sides had set up a mechanism for more frequent communications and Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to China to follow-up on discussions, he said.

“I think we understand each other,” Biden said. Ahead of their talks, the two leaders smiled and shook hands warmly in front of their national flags at a hotel on Indonesia’s Bali Island, a day before a Group of 20 (G20) summit set to be fraught with tension over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s just great to see you,” Biden told Xi, as he put an arm around him before a meeting that lasted a little over three hours. However, Biden brought up a number of difficult topics during the meeting, according to the White House, including raising US objections to China’s “coercive and increasingly aggressive actions toward Taiwan”, Beijing’s “non-market economic practices”, and practices in “Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, and human rights more broadly”.

Biden said beforehand he was committed to keeping lines of communication open on a personal and government level. “As the leaders of our two nations, we share responsibility, in my view, to show that China and the United States can manage our differences, prevent competition from turning into conflict, and to find ways to work together on urgent global issues that require our mutual cooperation,” Biden said in remarks in front of reporters.

Neither leader wore a mask to ward off Covid, though members of their delegations did. Xi said before the meeting the relationship between their countries was not meeting global expectations.

“Resolving the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese and China’s internal affair,” Xi said, according to state media. “Anyone that seeks to split Taiwan from China will be violating the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation.”

Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its own, has long said it would bring Taiwan under its control and has not ruled out the use of force to do so. Democratically ruled Taiwan’s government strongly objects to China’s sovereignty claims and says only the island’s 23 million people can decide its future.

There was some early drama in Bali surrounding Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who scolded Western media over a report that said he had been taken to a local hospital, suffering with a heart condition.

“This is a kind of game that is not new in politics,” Lavrov said. “Western journalists need to be more truthful.” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called it “the height of fakery” and posted a video of Lavrov sitting outdoors dressed in shorts and a T-shirt and reading documents.

However, Bali Governor I Wayan Koster said Lavrov had briefly visited a local hospital for a “check-up”, and the Russian was in good health. Indonesian officials declined to comment.

Lavrov is representing Putin at the G20 summit - the first since Russia invaded Ukraine in February - after the Kremlin said Putin was too busy to attend. US-China relations have been roiled in recent years by growing tensions over issues ranging from Hong Kong and Taiwan to the South China Sea, trade practices and US restrictions on Chinese technology. But US officials said there have been quiet efforts by both Beijing and Washington over the past two months to repair relations. — Agencies

Muhammad Saleh Zaafir adds: Chinese President XI Jinping has made it clear to his US counterpart Joe Biden that his country is advancing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation on all fronts through a Chinese path to modernisation, basing our efforts on the goal of meeting people’s aspirations for a better life, unswervingly pursuing reform and opening-up, and promoting the building of an open global economy.

The Chinese embassy shared “Beijing’s official read out” of maiden meeting of the two presidents. The 1204 words release stated that President Xi said that China remains firm in pursuing an independent foreign policy of peace, always decides its position and attitude based on the merits of issues, and advocates resolving disputes peacefully through dialogue and consultation. Xi pointed out the current state of China-US relations are not in the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples, and are not what the international community expects. The Chinese version says that Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart, Joe Biden, had a candid and in-depth exchange of views on issues of strategic importance in China-US relations and on major global and regional issues.