Biden and Xi to talk on phone as U.S presses China over Russia

Mar 18, 2022: U.S President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will hold their first direct talks since November, amid growing U.S concern over Beijing’s relations with Russia and its stance on the escalating brutal war in Ukraine.

Biden and Xi will speak on the phone at 13:00 GMT on Friday, the White House said, amid warnings from Washington that China may consider providing military assistance to Russia.

The call between Xi and Biden follows a marathon meeting in Rome on Monday between Yang Jiechi, director of China’s Central Foreign Affairs Commission, and Jake Sullivan, U.S national security adviser. China said the talks were “frank, deep and constructive” and included talks on Taiwan.

Beijing was furious when former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Taiwan earlier this month, saying the United States should recognize it as a “free and independent” nation.

The United States, which maintains formal diplomatic relations with Beijing, has a policy of “strategic ambiguity” about Taiwan.

Under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. government is obliged to “preserve and promote the broad, close and friendly trade, cultural, and other relations between the people of the United States and Taiwan.”

In recent years, amid threats from Beijing, the U.S has also increased arms sales to the island.

Additionally, according to a report by AFP, U.S President Joe Biden will warn his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Friday that he will face “costs” if Beijing rescues fellow authoritarian ally Russia from intense Western sanctions aimed at punishing Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Biden would use the call to “make clear that China will bear responsibility for any actions it takes to support Russia’s aggression”, and there would be “costs” to such actions.

China “in particular has a responsibility to use its influence with President Putin and to defend the international rules and principles that it professes to support,” he said

It’s also “an opportunity for President Biden to assess where President Xi stands,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

According to Psaki, trade lines and collapsed international supply chains will be discussed, but a major focus is expected on the Western bid to force Russia out of Ukraine, where President Vladimir Putin’s attack is in its fourth week. Biden has successfully marched on the hardline Western coalition against Russia, while providing military assistance to Ukrainian forces.

But Beijing has refused to condemn Moscow, and Washington fears that China could provide full financial and even military assistance to Russia, which has already turned an explosive transatlantic stalemate into a global conflict.

China has stressed Ukraine’s sovereignty while strenuously avoiding any direct criticism of Russia and calling for peace negotiations.

It has also insisted that Russia has legitimate security concerns that need to be addressed and echoed Russian claims the U.S has been secretly working on biological weapons in Ukraine. The allegations have been rejected by the U.S and the United Nations.

China’s foreign ministry pokesperson Zhao Lijian insisted China’s position was consistent and rounded on those who suggested any incongruity.

“It is those countries that delude themselves into thinking that they can lord it over the world after winning the Cold War, those that keep driving NATO’s eastward expansion five times in disregard of other countries’ security concerns, and those that wage wars across the globe while accusing other countries of being belligerent, that should really feel “uncomfortable”,” he told reporters.

The two countries held joint military and naval exercises late last year, and on February 4 issued a lengthy 5,000-word statement against NATO expansion, calling the security bloc a Cold War monument.

Putin, who appears to have a close relationship with Xi, was in Beijing shortly before the start of the Winter Olympics. The two have met more than 30 times since 2013.

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