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Tensions in Taiwan, trade pending new phone call between Biden and Xi

#Tensions #Taiwan #trade #pending #phone #call #Biden

President Joe Biden and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping were scheduled to hold talks Thursday amid questions about whether their long-distance calls can defuse rising tensions over Taiwan and trade.

The White House said the phone call would begin at 8:30 a.m. Washington (1230 GMT). A statement will be made after the call ends, a spokesman said.

Although this was Biden’s fifth talk with Xi since he took office a year and a half ago, it is becoming difficult to hide the growing distrust between the two countries.

Already mired in a trade war, Beijing and Washington are increasingly risking an open conflict over Taiwan with no sign of resolution on either front.

“Tensions over China’s aggressive, coercive behavior in the Indo-Pacific” will be high on the agenda, said White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

The latest focus is a possible trip by Biden’s ally and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the island, which Beijing claims is part of China but has its own democratic government.

Although US officials frequently visit Taiwan, which is separated from mainland China by a narrow strip of water, Beijing views a Pelosi trip as a major provocation. She is second in line for the US Presidency and given her position, she is able to travel on military transports.

Washington will “face the consequences” if the trip, which Pelosi has yet to confirm, goes ahead, China warned Wednesday.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, told reporters that if Pelosi “requests military assistance, we will do whatever is necessary to ensure the safe and secure conduct of her business.”

And the Pelosi dispute is the tip of an iceberg as US officials fear Xi is considering using force to seize control of democratic Taiwan.

Once thought unlikely, an invasion or some lesser form of military action is increasingly being viewed by China watchers as a possibility — perhaps even timed to bolster Xi’s prestige when he enters a third term later this year.

Biden’s conflicting statements about whether the United States would defend Taiwan — he said in May that it did, before the White House insisted there was no change in the “strategic ambiguity” policy — have not eased tensions.

– No personal contact –

Biden is proud of his close relationship with Xi for years, but — in large part due to Covid travel restrictions — the two have yet to meet in person since he took office.

According to the White House, Biden’s main goal is to erect “guard rails” between the two superpowers.

This is to ensure that while they have sharp disagreements on democracy and are increasingly rivals on the geopolitical stage, they can avoid open conflict.

“He wants to ensure that the lines of communication with President Xi on all issues, whether it’s again issues we agree on or issues we have significant difficulty on — that they still pick up the phone and talk to them openly,” Kirby said.

However, where to place the guard rails is a challenge amid so many unresolved disputes, including a simmering trade war that began under Donald Trump’s presidency.

Asked if Biden could lift some of the 25 percent import tariffs Trump has imposed on billions of dollars in Chinese products, Kirby said there was no decision yet.

“We believe … that the tariffs introduced by his predecessor were poorly designed. We believe they have increased costs for American families and small businesses and ranchers. And that’s actually without going against some of China’s harmful trade practices,” Kirby said.

But “I have no decision to speak to regarding the President’s tariffs. He’s working that out.”

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#Tensions #Taiwan #trade #pending #phone #call #Biden

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