Thu, 07 Dec 2023

President Biden, China's Xi Meet on Sidelines of APEC Forum

Voice of America
16 Nov 2023, 08:35 GMT+10

San Francisco, California - U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed Chinese leader Xi Jinping to California where the two are meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Biden and Xi shook hands outside of the Filoli estate, about 48 kilometers (30 miles) south of San Francisco, before heading inside where they exchanged remarks. The press was then ushered out of the room so the closed-door meeting between the leaders could continue.

Biden, who spoke first, said tension should 'not veer into conflict,' to which Xi responded that for the two nations, 'turning their back on each other is not an option.'

As the first meeting in a year between the two leaders, it is hoped that it will help ease ongoing tensions between the two powers over military conflicts, drug-trafficking and artificial intelligence.

Officials on both sides have set low expectations for anything major to be resolved. The two will be discussing Taiwan, the South China Sea, the Israel-Hamas war, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, North Korea and human rights - all topics in which the two nations have had staunch disagreements.

Also high on the agenda is restoring normal communication channels between the militaries of the world's two largest economies. China severed those contacts in August 2022, when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, the self-ruled island Beijing considers part of the mainland.

Relations between Beijing and Washington worsened in February after President Biden ordered a Chinese spy balloon that had drifted over the United States be shot down.

Several high-ranking Biden administration officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, have visited Beijing in recent months to ease the tensions.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told VOA Tuesday that Biden is looking forward to his meeting with Xi, which comes after 'many, many ups and downs in our relationship.'

'He believes that as two leaders running two countries, that literally the bilateral relationship is one of the most consequential in the world, that we've got to get it onto a more responsible footing than it is or has been to date,' Kirby said.

Kirby said Biden is heading into his meeting with Xi 'from a strong position' with the U.S. economy at the strongest point now 'than it's been in many, many decades.'

The Biden-Xi summit comes just weeks before Taiwan's presidential election in January. Voter opinion polls show Vice President William Lai, the standard bearer of the ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, is leading Hou Yu-ih, the former mayor of New Taipei City and candidate of the Kuomintang Party, which favors closer ties with mainland China.

Kirby would not reveal specifics of what Biden and Xi would discuss in regard to China, but said, 'it is not uncommon' for Chinese actors 'to behave irresponsibly when it comes to election interference in the region and beyond.'

'We believe that a real strength of democracy is free and fair elections that are unimpeded and uninterrupted and not impaired by foreign interference,' he said.

White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report. Some information came from The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse.

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