Chinese President Xi Jinping has warned his US counterpart Joe Biden against “playing with fire” over Taiwan, as the pair held their fifth call as leaders at a time of simmering economic and geopolitical tensions.
Chinese state media reported that Xi told Biden that the United States should abide by the “one-China principle” and stressed that China firmly opposed Taiwanese independence and “interference” by external forces.
“Those who play with fire will only get burnt,” Xi was quoted as telling Biden. “[We] hope the US side can see this clearly.”
The White House said in a statement that Biden told Xi that US policy had not changed and Washington “strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” – the body of water separating the island from mainland China.
Following the call, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it thanked Biden for his support and would continue to deepen its security partnership with the United States.
The Biden-Xi call, which lasted more than two hours, came as the US president tries to find new ways to work with China amid growing global competition and tensions between the two nations over human rights, global health and economic policy, among other issues.
Most recently, Beijing has issued escalating warnings over a potential visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying it would view such a trip as a provocation. The self-governing island receives informal defensive support from the US, but Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory and has not ruled out the use of force to achieve its goals.
“If the US insists on going its own way and challenging China’s bottom line, it will surely be met with forceful responses,” Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, told reporters earlier this week. “All ensuing consequences shall be borne by the US.”
Pelosi would be the highest-ranking US elected official to travel to Taiwan since Republican Newt Gingrich visited in 1997 when he was House speaker. Biden last week told reporters that US military officials believed it was “not a good idea” for Pelosi to visit the island right now.
Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett, reporting from the White House, said Biden held the call with Xi “in order to tamp down the diplomatic tensions that have been in place for some time, but have escalated as a result of this potential visit” by Pelosi.
US officials said Biden also touched on a raft of other sensitive issues, including China’s “genocide and forced labor practices” and its increasingly assertive military posture in the Asia Pacific.
A senior Biden administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters later in the day that Biden and Xi discussed a possible face-to-face meeting during their call. The two leaders last spoke in March, shortly after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.
John Kirby, a US national security spokesman, said this week that it was important for Biden and Xi to regularly touch base, describing the relationship between Washington and Beijing as “one of the most consequential bilateral relationships in the world today”.
“The president wants to make sure that the lines of communication with President Xi remain open because they need to,” Kirby told reporters at a White House briefing on Wednesday. “There are issues where we can cooperate with China on, and there are issues where obviously there are friction and tension.”
Source: Al Jazeera