©Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden speaks virtually with Chinese leader Xi Jinping from the White House in Washington, U.S. November 15, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
By Nandita Bose and Michael Martina
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Joe Biden hopes to forge guidelines on how to compete with China when he meets Xi Jinping next week, but he will be honest about US concerns, including on Taiwan and human rights, a said senior government official on Thursday.
“The President believes it is crucial to establish a basis for the relationship and ensure there are rules binding our competition,” the official told reporters in a call to the meeting.
The White House said Biden will hold talks with China’s President Xi on Monday on the sidelines of a Group of 20 nations summit in Indonesia, their first face-to-face meeting since Biden took office in January 2021.
US relations with China have been strained, especially since US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August trip to Taiwan, the self-governing democratic island that Beijing claims as its territory.
China is Washington’s main strategic rival and the second largest economy in the world after the United States. The United States is seeking stable ties with Beijing despite tensions over Taiwan, the South China Sea, trade and a host of other issues.
The senior administration official said there will be no joint statement from a meeting where concrete agreements are not expected.
“I expect the President will be honest about a number of our concerns, including PRC (People’s Republic of China) activities threatening peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, as well as our long-standing concerns about human rights abuses,” he said Officer.
Russia’s war in Ukraine and North Korea is likely to be discussed, the official said.
Biden said Wednesday he was unwilling to make fundamental concessions when meeting Xi and wanted both leaders to set their “red lines” and resolve areas of conflict, including on Taiwan.
The White House has tried to maintain a dialogue that China cut short after Pelosi’s visit on areas like climate and military-to-military communications, the official said, but the two leaders are not expected to sit down and resolve all their problems.
The United States has taken note of Xi’s “important” comments about Ukraine’s non-use of nuclear weapons after Xi agreed in a meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz last week that both leaders opposed their use, the official said.
Ukraine’s western allies have accused Russia of threatening to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, although Moscow denies this, and China has refrained from criticizing Russia for the invasion or urging Moscow to withdraw its troops.
The United States and its allies believe North Korea may be about to resume nuclear tests for the first time since 2017 and have accused both China and Russia of enabling Pyongyang’s missile and bomb programs by breaking Security Council sanctions by the United Nations, which they are supposed to obstruct, you have not properly enforced.
While both Russia and China supported tightened sanctions following North Korea’s latest nuclear test, in May they vetoed a US-led push to impose further UN sanctions on North Korea’s renewed ballistic missile launches.
Washington believes China and Russia have leverage to persuade North Korea not to resume nuclear tests.
“This is an area where China and the United States have worked together in the past…there is a track record of being able to work together. And so I think the President will approach the conversation in that spirit,” the official said.
For Xi, who cemented his leadership at a Communist Party congress last month, the meeting with Biden comes as China’s economy grapples with strict COVID-19 prevention measures.
These measures and Xi’s limited travel abroad since the pandemic began have meant his previous five meetings with Biden have been conducted virtually.
The US official said the two sides discussed COVID-19 protocols for the meeting but did not elaborate.