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Don't 'play with fire' over Taiwan, China's Xi warns in call with Biden

World Jul 29, 2022 03:06AM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: 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 2/2

By Steve Holland, Michael Martina and Ryan Woo

WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) -Chinese leader Xi Jinping warned against playing with fire over Taiwan in a call with U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday, highlighting Beijing's concerns about a possible visit to the Chinese-claimed island by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"Those who play with fire will perish by it," China's foreign ministry quoted Xi as telling Biden in their fifth call as leaders. "It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this."

Xi said Washington should abide by the "one-China principle" and stressed that China firmly opposes Taiwanese independence and outside interference.

Biden told Xi U.S. policy on Taiwan had not changed and that Washington strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, the White House said.

Following the call, Taiwan thanked Biden for his support and said it would continue to deepen its security partnership with the United States, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.

The White House said the long-scheduled call was part of the administration's efforts to deepen lines of communication with China and "responsibly manage our differences."

It has been particularly anxious to lower the temperature on Taiwan.

A visit by the House speaker would be a dramatic, though not unprecedented, show of U.S. support for the island, and some analysts worry such a move at a time of fraught U.S. ties with Beijing could spur a major crisis and even unintended clashes.

Scott Kennedy, a China analyst at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, said leader-level contacts were essential to preventing this.

"One hopes they've done enough to avoid a collision in the near term, but it's clear there needs to be much more frequent and in-depth communication," he said.

A senior U.S. official said Biden and Xi had discussed the possibility of holding a first face-to-face meeting as leaders and directed their teams to look into this.

GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAINS, SECURITY

Biden stressed the importance of maintaining lines of communication on Taiwan and the two also discussed areas where there was the potential to expand cooperation, including climate change, health security and counter-narcotics, the official said.

While highlighting Taiwan, Xi also stressed that the world's two largest economies needed to maintain communication on macroeconomic policies, global supply chains, and safeguarding global food and energy security, China's readout said.

The senior U.S. official also emphasized the importance of macroeconomic coordination.

Beijing has issued escalating warnings about repercussions should Pelosi - a Democrat like Biden - visit Taiwan. Xi has vowed to bring Taiwan under Beijing's control, by force if necessary.

China has given few clues to specific responses it might make if Pelosi makes the trip, which she has yet to confirm.

The U.S. official told reporters Xi had used similar language about Taiwan before and said the two sides acknowledged differing views that have existed for 40 years. "The conversation between the two about Taiwan, it was direct and it was honest," the official said, while declining to offer more specific details about Biden's message to Xi.

The call lasted over two hours. U.S. officials had said it would have a broad agenda, including Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which China has yet to condemn.

Washington follows a "one-China policy" that recognizes Beijing, not Taipei, diplomatically. But it is obliged by U.S. law to provide the democratically governed Taiwan with the means to defend itself, and pressure has mounted in Congress for more explicit support.

Some analysts believe Xi has an interest in avoiding escalation as he seeks an unprecedented third term in office this year. Others say playing up the Taiwan issue could serve Xi as a domestic distraction from China's slowing economy.

Asked about the call, Taiwan's representative office in Washington told Reuters it was grateful to Biden "for underscoring the importance of our shared interest in peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait."

CHINA CHANGES TONE ON ECONOMY

Both Washington and Beijing have been grappling with economic difficulties. China's $18 trillion economy has been battered by its strict COVID regulations and full urban lockdowns, while the United States is battling surging inflation amid concerns of a recession.

Chinese state media said on Thursday China would try hard to achieve the best possible economic results this year, dropping previous calls that it will strive to meet its 2022 growth target. This followed a high-level Communist Party meeting chaired by Xi.

"Attempts at decoupling or severing supply chains in defiance of underlying patterns would not help boost the U.S. economy. They would only make the world economy more vulnerable," Xi said, referring to U.S. efforts to end reliance on China for strategic goods.

The Biden administration has been debating whether to lift some tariffs on Chinese goods as a way to ease soaring inflation, but Biden did not discuss potential steps with Xi, the senior U.S. official said.

When Biden last spoke to Xi in March, he warned of "consequences" if Beijing gave material support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and Washington believes this red line has not been crossed since.

However, Taiwan has complained of stepped-up Chinese military maneuvers and just ahead of Thursday's call, Taiwan's military said it fired flares to warn away a drone that was possibly probing the defenses of a strategically located and heavily fortified island close to the Chinese coast.

The last time a U.S. House speaker visited Taiwan was in 1997. As a co-equal branch of government, the U.S. executive has little control over congressional travel.

China has grown far more powerful militarily and economically since then and the White House says the administration has been in touch with Pelosi's office to make sure she has "all the context" she needs to make decisions about her travel.

Don't 'play with fire' over Taiwan, China's Xi warns in call with Biden
 

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Comments (11)
Yellow Owl
Mystic_Owl Jul 29, 2022 7:36AM ET
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I think its time to learn Mandarin for individual's safety.
Dave Jones
Dave Jones Jul 29, 2022 4:38AM ET
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poopy pants soiled his diaper...
John Laurens
John Laurens Jul 29, 2022 4:25AM ET
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If only there were millions there with enough spine to right that crazy man. He and Putin are brothers in arms...
Steve Brown
Steve Brown Jul 29, 2022 4:25AM ET
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Thank American political leaders and lobbyists for China from past 50 years.  Everyone since Nixon and Kissinger have followed in the support China side of the equation.  Business and industry has followed suit and 50 years later there is a new world power and it is China.  No one seems to complain that much of China's wealth and industry are supported with slave labor or that China gained wealth and affluence by the theft of patents and other intellectual property. In recent decades, military college generals have war gamed many times a war with China.  U.S. never wins, and normally loses rapidly.  Thanks mostly to U.S. efforts, China is the most powerful nation in the world and they control vast areas and infrastructure outside of China.
John Laurens
John Laurens Jul 29, 2022 4:24AM ET
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Millions of Chinese will perish with Xi's push for war.
John Laurens
John Laurens Jul 29, 2022 4:23AM ET
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The only way for Xi to maintain power is to start a war.
John Laurens
John Laurens Jul 29, 2022 4:22AM ET
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China's on the verge of collapse.
Tony Barnes
Tony Barnes Jul 29, 2022 4:22AM ET
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I believe the opposite is true, US is collapsing! That's why they need to stir up trouble around the world to stay relevant.
mark johnson
mark johnson Jul 29, 2022 3:40AM ET
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I’m so embarrassed with The impotence and nativity of Joes administration. So cringe.
Adrian White
Adrian White Jul 29, 2022 3:40AM ET
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Nativity? haha
Jason Moreira
Rolln Jul 29, 2022 12:09AM ET
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F him and his threats. China is past its peak. Bye
Tony Barnes
Tony Barnes Jul 29, 2022 12:09AM ET
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When war starts that's when you will know how wrong you are. Don't be over confident boy
Steve Brown
Steve Brown Jul 29, 2022 12:09AM ET
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War started years ago.  WEF and American communists have been at war a long time.   Covid and the clot shots have caused the death of millions.  Now there are crop shortages and farm land taken down in various nations and fertilizer is restricted.  There is a kinetic war in Ukraine which is expected to spread in near term. Not all war is constant kinetic battles.  Energy and food restrictions and inflation are more than enough to grow the war and massively increase death count.
George Jetson
George Jetson Jul 28, 2022 6:55PM ET
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Nancy loves fires. mostly peaceful protests
Hunt Richardson
Hunt Richardson Jul 28, 2022 12:51PM ET
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as usual the CPRC does what it wants and to hel* with everyone else
 
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