Biden makes the fifth call with the Chinese president, seeking to calm tensions in Taiwan

WASHINGTON, July 28 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping held a fifth call as leaders on Thursday, talking for more than two hours, as concerns mounted over a possible visit to Taiwan by China claimed by the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. . Nancy Pelosi.

The White House said the call began at 8:33 am (1233 GMT) and ended at 10:50 am (1450 GMT). US officials said it would have a broad agenda, including discussing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which China has yet to condemn.

In essence, US officials see the exchange as another opportunity to manage competition between the world’s two largest economies, whose relations are increasingly teetered by tensions over democratically governed Taiwan, which Xi has vowed to reunite with the mainland, by force if necessary.

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Beijing has issued mounting warnings of repercussions for Pelosi to visit Taiwan, a move that would be a dramatic, if unprecedented, display of US support for the island, which it says faces growing Chinese military and economic threats.

Washington has no official relations with Taiwan and follows a “one China” policy, which recognizes Beijing and not Taipei diplomatically. But it is obligated by US law to provide the island with the means to defend itself, and pressure has grown in Congress for more visible support.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday.

One of the people briefed on the planning for the call said the Biden administration believes that leader-to-leader engagement is the best way to reduce tensions over Taiwan.

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Some analysts believe Xi also has an interest in avoiding escalation as he seeks an unprecedented third term in office at China’s ruling Communist Party congress expected in the fall.

Biden also wanted to discuss climate issues and economic competition, the person briefing said, as well as the idea of ​​capping the price of Russian oil to punish Moscow for its war in Ukraine, an issue Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen raised with her Chinese counterparts earlier. July. Read more

The Biden administration is debating whether to raise some tariffs on Chinese goods as a way to mitigate rising inflation, but US officials said the decision was unexpected ahead of the call. Read more

When Biden last spoke to Xi in March, he warned of “consequences” if Beijing provided material support for Russia’s war, and the US government believes that red line has not been crossed in the months since.

Taiwan has complained of intensifying Chinese military exercises over the past two years to try to force it to accept Beijing’s sovereignty. Just before the phone call Thursday, Taiwan’s military said it had fired flares to warn a drone that had “peeked” at a strategically located and heavily fortified island near the Chinese coast that may have been searching its defenses. Read more

Toxic links

The White House reiterated that the “one China” policy has not changed despite speculation about Pelosi’s possible visit, which the spokesperson has not yet confirmed.

The last time the speaker of the US House of Representatives visited Taiwan was in 1997, and as an equal branch of government, the US executive has little control over travel to members of Congress.

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China has grown militarily and economically powerful since then, and some analysts fear that such a visit at a time of fraught relations could lead to a crisis across the 100-mile (160 kilometer) wide waterway separating China and Taiwan.

Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund in the United States, said.

She said Biden and Xi need to focus their advocacy on de-escalation, including potential mechanisms to reduce the risk of mishaps.

Kirby said the administration is in touch with Pelosi’s office to make sure it has “all the context” it needs to make decisions about her travel.

China has offered little clue as to what specific responses it might take if Pelosi, a longtime critic of China, especially on human rights issues, goes to Taiwan.

Raising the Taiwan issue could serve as a domestic distraction from the slowing Chinese economy, said Martin Chorzimba, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, but “any reaction strong enough to impose US sanctions will do serious damage to China and the world economy.” Read more

Chinese state media said Thursday that the country will try hard to achieve the best possible results for the economy this year, ignoring previous calls that it will strive to achieve its 2022 growth target. This came after a high-level meeting of the Communist Party chaired by Xi. Read more

Scott Kennedy, of the Washington Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he did not believe the two sides were on the brink of a crisis, but that “the risk of a major crisis is well above zero” and that Biden’s call on Xi is important to avoid an unwanted clash.

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“Beijing, Taipei, and Washington are full of people immersed in how to send and interpret signals that convey threats and reassurance, and I’m sure no one wants war right now.”

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Additional reporting by Michael Martina, Trevor Honeycutt, David Bronstrom and Garrett Renshaw; Additional reporting by Martin Quinn Pollard in Beijing. Editing by Bernadette Bohm and Alistair Bell

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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