BALI, Indonesia — President Joe Biden said Monday he told his Chinese counterpart Monday that Beijing had “an obligation” to dissuade its neighbor North Korea from launching nuclear missiles for testing purposes and that the U.S. had unspecified “defense” Measures would have to be taken The provocations continue.
At a press conference after a three-hour meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Biden gave no indication of how the United States might respond to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s further nuclear tests. He added that any US retaliatory measures “would not be aimed at China but would send a clear message to North Korea: we will defend our allies and American soil and capabilities.”
Biden also said he doesn’t think rising tensions with China have led to a new “Cold War.”
“We will compete vigorously, but I do not seek conflict” with China, the president said. “I want to run this competition responsibly. And I want to make sure every country abides by international road traffic rules.”
Biden’s first face-to-face meeting with Xi since taking office lasted for months. It took place during a summit of the Group of 20, whose nations make up about 80 percent of the world economy.
A recording of the meeting provided by the White House showed that the two leaders were trying to find common ground. They agreed that America’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, will travel to China to build on the discussion.
Biden told the Chinese President he wants to work with China to improve public health, curb world hunger and limit global warming. Senior officials on both sides will communicate with each other to make progress on these and other issues, the US statement said.
The two leaders came to the meeting at a volatile moment in the world’s most consequential bilateral relationship. North Korea has stepped up missile tests – firing nearly two dozen in one day this month – and the US believes China should use its influence to urge Kim to withdraw. “We know that Beijing has influence over Pyongyang,” a senior government official in the North Korean capital told NBC News. “Beijing probably has more influence in Pyongyang than in any other capital city.”
Meanwhile, Chinese military exercises near Taiwan have raised concerns about a possible invasion of the self-governing island that China claims as part of its territory. China was outraged by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August, which kickstarted a lengthy exercise.
“I don’t think there is any imminent attempt by China to invade Taiwan,” Biden said. “We want cross-strait issues to be resolved peacefully so that it never has to come to that. I’m convinced he is [Xi Jinping] understood exactly what I mean. I understood what he said.”
Biden’s dealings with Xi will require skillful diplomacy. He must be both tough and forgiving as he seeks to stop China from threatening Taiwan and bullying US allies in the region while gaining Xi’s cooperation in curbing North Korea’s nuclear program and limiting the impact of climate change.
To make the task even more difficult, Biden’s countrymen have largely had a gloomy view of China, meaning he has little room to placate Beijing. According to the Pew Research Center, more than three-quarters of American adults have viewed China in an unfavorable light over the past two years.
At the beginning of the talks, the two heads of state greeted each other warmly. They met at around 5:40 p.m. local time in front of a row of American and Chinese flags. Biden walked towards Xi with his right hand outstretched and when they were shaking, he clasped Xi’s hand with his left.
“Nice to see you,” said Biden, who has met with Xi many times when both were vice presidents of their respective countries. The leaders then turned and faced the cameras for a photo before walking into the briefing room and taking their places at long, rectangular tables that faced each other about 12 feet apart. Each leader was flanked by nine helpers. On their side, Xi’s deputies wore masks printed with the country’s red flag.
The mood in the room was tense. In brief opening comments, Xi pointed to the marked differences between the world’s two largest powers.
“Currently, China-US relations are in such a situation that we all care deeply because these are not the fundamental interests of our two countries and peoples and it is not what the international community expects of us.” , Xi said on the English translation of his comments.
“As leaders of the two great countries, we must chart the right course for China-US relations. We must find the right direction for the future bilateral relationship and improve the relationship.”
As reporters were ushered from the room, a television producer asked a question about whether Biden would raise the issue of human rights in China. A man from the Chinese side then pulled the producer backwards, causing her to lose her balance. As she was shoved towards the door, White House officials stepped in and told her to leave her alone, according to a pool report of the incident.
Organizing the meeting required careful negotiation which, a senior administration official suggested, became contentious at times. In their last phone call in July, both Biden and Xi agreed that they would instruct their staff to explore the possibility of meeting in person. The two had spoken to each other virtually or by phone five times since Biden was sworn in.
“Both sides had an interest in this meeting taking place,” the official said.
A point emphasized by each leader in their opening remarks was that face-to-face diplomacy is essential since so much is at stake.
“As you know, I’m committed to keeping lines of communication open between you and I personally, but our governments down the line, because both of our countries have — so much that we have the ability to handle it,” Biden said in his testimony .