US President Joe Biden listens during a virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington DC, USA, 15 November 2021. EFE-EPA FILE/SARAH SILBIGER / POOL

Biden, Xi agree on military communication, anti-drug cooperation, discuss Taiwan

San Francisco, US, Nov 15 (EFE).- United States President Joe Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping met for the first time in a year on Wednesday, agreeing to resume military-to-military communication and cooperate on anti-drug issues as well as discussing their most touchy topic of Taiwan.

The flags of the USA and China flutter in Beijing, China, 15 November 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/MARK R. CRISTINO

The flags of the USA and China flutter in Beijing, China, 15 November 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/MARK R. CRISTINO

The meeting, which lasted more than four hours and took place on the outskirts of San Francisco and on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, involved a “candid and constructive discussion on a range of bilateral and global issues,” according to the White House.

During the meeting, Xi told Biden that Taiwan is the most dangerous issue in their bilateral relationship, a senior US official told journalists.

A spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, Hua Chunying, wrote on X that “Xi pointed out that the Taiwan question remains the most important and most sensitive issue in China-US relations.”

“The US side should take real actions to honor its commitment of not supporting ‘Taiwan independence,’ stop arming Taiwan, and support China’s peaceful reunification. China will realize reunification, and this is unstoppable,” she added.

Biden reiterated to Xi that the US “opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side” and expects “cross-strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means,” according to the White House, which added that Biden called for restraint in China’s use of military activity in and around the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan, the self-governed island with a democratic political system that China claims as part of its territory and to which Washington sends a large amount of weapons, is the main source of tensions between the two powers.

Biden again reaffirmed, as he has on numerous occasions, the US’ adherence to the “one China” principle, which Beijing imposes as the basis of its diplomatic ties with any country. It means that the only Chinese government that Washington can officially recognize is Beijing.

However, in exchange for abiding by that principle and breaking diplomatic ties with Taipei almost half a century ago, Washington signed the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which commits the US to the defense of the island, although it is not clear whether the power would intervene in the event of a Chinese attack in a policy known as “strategic ambiguity.”

Furthermore, according to the senior US official, Biden took the opportunity to ask Xi to respect the independence of the January presidential election in Taiwan.

In addition, the presidents agreed to resume military-to-military communications, which China severed following the visit of then-US House speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan in August 2022.

“The two leaders welcomed the resumption of high-level military-to-military communication, as well as the US-China Defense Policy Coordination Talks and the US-China Military Maritime Consultative Agreement meetings. Both sides are also resuming telephone conversations between theater commanders,” the White House said.

Biden also underscored the US’ support for a “free and open Indo-Pacific that is connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient … [and] reaffirmed the United States’ ironclad commitment to defending our Indo-Pacific allies.”

“The president emphasized the United States’ enduring commitment to freedom of navigation and overflight, adherence to international law, maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea and East China Sea, and the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the White House said.

The pair also reached an agreement to stop the illicit production of fentanyl, the powerful opioid that claims the lives of nearly 200 Americans a day.

According to the same senior official, the leaders reached an agreement for Beijing to control the exports of chemicals that Mexican drug cartels use to manufacture fentanyl and then sell illegally in the US.

According to US media, the deal includes a commitment from China to go after companies that produce fentanyl precursors.

In exchange, the US could lift restrictions on the Institute of Forensic Science of China’s Ministry of Public Security, which were put in place during the Trump administration for abuses against Muslim minorities in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang, which Beijing denies.

Biden raised concerns regarding Chinese human rights abuses, including in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong.

The leaders also affirmed the need to address the risks of advanced AI systems and improve AI safety, the White House said.

They also committed to tackle the climate crisis, increase passenger flights between the two countries, and encouraged the expansion of educational, student, youth, cultural, sports and business exchanges. EFE