Biden Urges ‘Open Lines’ in Meeting With China’s Foreign Minister

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden stressed the importance of managing competition and maintaining lines of communication between the world’s two largest economies during a meeting Friday with China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, according to the White House.

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“The president emphasized that both the United States and China need to manage competition in the relationship responsibly and maintain open lines of communication,” the White House said in a readout of the meeting. “He underscored that the United States and China must work together to address global challenges.”

The meeting did not yield an announcement about whether the US president would meet next month with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

“Both sides regularly acknowledged the importance of leader-level channels of communication to manage this most consequential bilateral relationship,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Friday. “The president has stated multiple times that he hopes to see President Xi in the near future.”

The White House said Biden also expressed his condolences over the passing of China’s former Premier Li Keqiang. The meting, also attended by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, lasted about an hour, Kirby said.

Read more: Biden to Meet With China’s Foreign Minister Friday in Washington

Officials from the world’s two largest economies for months have worked to set up a leaders’ sit-down around the time of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November. But while Biden has expressed hope it would happen, China has refused to confirm Xi’s attendance at the San Francisco gathering.

The presidents last met at last year’s Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia. Despite engagement from top-ranking officials in both governments since then, the two men have not spoken.

The two-day visit to Washington was the first by China’s top foreign policy official since March 2021.

The relationship between the world’s two largest economies steadily improved from a low point earlier this year after the US military shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon and tensions simmered over Taiwan.

Since the summer, a number of US cabinet officials have visited Beijing for talks with their counterparts and made progress on macroeconomic issues.

Read More: China’s Wang Yi to Visit Washington Amid Mideast Tensions

Wang and Sullivan met last month in Malta, in an effort to keep channels of communication open and reduce the risk of conflict. They discussed China’s relationship with Russia and Beijing’s ongoing support for Moscow in its invasion of Ukraine, which US officials have warned should not cross the line of providing lethal aid.

“We still haven’t seen any indication that China’s willing to provide lethal capabilities to the Russian military,” Kirby told reporters Thursday.

China also has been unwilling to take sides in the Israel-Hamas conflict, instead urging a ceasefire. The White House has called out China for what it’s characterized as increasingly dangerous maneuvers in the South China Sea. The administration has also said Beijing was irresponsible for refusing to resume military-to-military communications to avoid conflict and miscalculation.

The Chinese “are able to have conversations in some places like Tehran” that the US isn’t, Kirby said, adding, “I think it would be irresponsible if we didn’t try to explore this issue with them and see what their thoughts and perspectives are.”

--With assistance from Justin Sink, Michelle Jamrisko and Akayla Gardner.

(Adds Kirby comment starting in fourth paragraph)

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