Biden raises Taiwan issue during virtual meet, Xi warns don’t ‘play with fire’

Biden raises Taiwan issue during virtual meet, Xi warns don’t ‘play with fire’

US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping exchanged strong views on issues like Taiwan and human rights during a one-on-one online summit.

The three-and-half-hour session lasted “longer than expected”, a US official told reporters, adding, “the conversation was respectful and straightforward.”

During the meet, Biden told Xi that the US strongly opposes “unilateral efforts” to change the status quo or undermine peace across Taiwan—a remark not taken well by China.

According to Chinese state media, Xi warned Biden that US support for Taiwanese independence would be “like playing with fire”.

“Taiwanese authorities have repeatedly tried to rely on the US for independence,” Xi was quoted as saying by state media agency Xinhua.

“Some people in the US intend to use Taiwan to control China. This trend is very dangerous and is like playing with fire, and those who play with fire will get burned,” he said.

Biden also raised “concerns” over wider issues of human rights abuses and mass repression against the Uyghurs in the northwest region of Xinjiang.

Xi called on the two countries to respect each other’s social systems and development paths, respect each other’s core interests and major concerns, and respect each other’s right to development.

“We need to treat each other as equals, keep differences under control, and seek common ground while reserving differences,” Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying.

Xi stressed peaceful coexistence between the two countries, saying that no conflict and no confrontation is a line that both sides must hold.

Also read | Insisting China ‘play by the rules of the road’, Biden-Xi virtual summit seeks to settle tense relationship

Both Biden and Xi emphasized the need for working together on major global issues, especially Covid-19 and climate change.

Speaking from the White House to Xi on a television screen, Biden said it was their “responsibility as leaders of China and the United States to ensure that the competition between our countries does not veer into conflict, whether intended or unintended.”

Xi, speaking from Beijing, called Biden “my old friend,” but said their countries had to work more closely.

“We face multiple challenges together. As the world’s two largest economies and permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and the United States need to increase communication and cooperation,” he said, speaking through an interpreter in brief public remarks, before they went behind closed doors.

The two leaders have spoken by phone twice since Biden’s inauguration in January but with Xi refusing to travel abroad because of the pandemic, an online video meeting was the only option short of an in-person summit.

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