The widely reported tensions between the United States and China will not be the only topic of discussion when Vice President Joe Biden calls Chinese leader Xi Jinping next week. President Trump “wants to make sure the lines of communication with President Xi remain open because they need to,” according to White House spokesperson John Kirby.
The White House also attempted to play down a potential source of escalating tensions between the two countries: a visit by U.S. lawmakers to Taiwan, possibly led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
DC — Washington. The White House announced on Wednesday that Vice President Joe Biden will speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping soon and that the two leaders will discuss areas of potential cooperation between the United States and China, despite the fact that diplomatic relations between the two countries have been strained due to disagreements over Russia, intellectual property disputes, and even espionage.
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The call will take place “in the coming days,” and it will be the 5th leader-to-leader conversation between Biden and Xi, according to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. “There is an awful lot in the bilateral relationship between the United States and China for these two leaders to talk about,” he added.
The news of escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing dominated the headlines, but Kirby emphasized that a call between Biden and Xi was worthwhile even if it didn’t lead to a resolution of the many points of contention between the two countries.
Kirby emphasized how important it was for the president to keep an open channel of communication with President Xi. There are “topics where we can engage with China on, and then obviously there are issues where there is friction and strain,” he told reporters at the White House daily press briefing.
Potential sources of disagreement were highlighted, including China’s treatment of Taiwan, its “aggressive and coercive actions in the Indo-Pacific outside of Taiwan,” economic difficulties, and China’s reluctance to condemn Russia’s unprovoked conflict in Ukraine.
“I would anticipate all of these to be included in this discussion,” Kirby added. A potential legislative trip to Taiwan, which reports suggest could be sponsored by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. has also been downplayed by the former Defense Department spokeswoman.
Despite the widespread speculation, Pelosi has not confirmed or rejected the trip, and it is not listed on the official agenda for her early August trip to Asia, which currently only includes stops in Japan, Singapore, and Indonesia.
On Wednesday, when asked by reporters about the possibility of a stop in Taiwan, Pelosi said that she does not publicize her travel arrangements because doing so constitutes a security risk.
However, Beijing has been extremely critical of even the possibility of a Pelosi visit to Taiwan, as it would signify tacit U.S. support for the independence movement inside Taiwan, which Beijing views as an existential danger to Chinese sovereignty.
The spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Wang Wenbin, recently warned that China might take “countermeasures” if the United States insisted on the visit.
Kirby claimed that Beijing’s ominous warnings were overblown because the trip hadn’t yet been officially scheduled. Speaking of a trip that hasn’t been planned or publicized, he said, “The hyperbole coming out of the Chinese side here is harmful and unwarranted.”