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Biden meets with Chinese foreign minister in possible prelude to sit-down with Xi

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, center, during a bilateral meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department in Washington, Friday, Oct. 27, 2023 (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, center, during a bilateral meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department in Washington, Friday, Oct. 27, 2023 (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

President Joe Biden on Friday met with Chinese Foreign MinisterWang Yi at the White House, capping off a multi-day swing through the American capital by China’s top diplomat ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s expected visit to San Francisco next month.

A senior administration official who briefed reporters on the meeting said the discussions included plans for “additional high-level engagements” between the US and China — including meetings between senior officials with the goal of working towards a bilateral meeting featuring Mr Biden and Mr Xi.

A second official added later that US officials are “making preparations for just such a meeting” but cautioned that Chinese officials’ practice has been to not confirm official travel until just before a given trip.

Mr Wang, who also met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this week and was slated to have a sit-down with White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, is in the US for meetings with top American officials in what is widely believed to be a scene-setting endeavour before Mr Xi attends the US-hosted APEC leaders’ summit, which is scheduled to take place from 11 to 17 November.

According to a readout released by the White House, Mr Biden used the sit-down with Mr Wang to “emphasise” that both Washington and Beijing must “manage competition in the relationship responsibly and maintain open lines of communication”.

The president also “underscored that the United States and China must work together to address global challenges” and “expressed his condolences on the passing of former Premier Li Keqiang,” the White House said.

The meeting between the US president and China’s top diplomat comes less than a month before Mr Biden and Mr Xi are set to be in San Francisco.

But the White House declined to say whether the two men had agreed on terms for a meeting between Mr Biden and Mr Xi, who last sat face-to-face over a year ago on the sidelines of the 2022 G20 summit in Indonesia.

During a briefing with reporters on Friday, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Mr Biden “has stated multiple times that he hopes to see Xi in the near future” but would not go any further into detail on plans for a possible meeting.

A sit-down between Mr Biden and Mr Xi, should one take place, would cap months of diplomacy by a multitude of senior US officials, who have collectively embarked on a concerted effort to lower temperatures between the two countries after an errand espionage balloon owned by Beijing touched off months of tensions.

One of those officials, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, visited Beijing to meet with her Chinese counterpart and other senior Chinese officials in July, one month after Mr Blinken, the US top diplomat, made a similar trip.

Mr Wang’s visit to Washington was a reciprocal one following Mr Blinken’s prior trip to Beijing, and a senior administration official told reporters late Friday that the two diplomats’ discussions were “candid and in-depth” and lasted more than six hours over the last two days, during which they spoke of “a range of bilateral, regional and global issues” ahead of the APEC summit.

“We agreed on the importance of continuing to maintain open lines of communication on the full range of issues, and Secretary Blinken underscored the need to resume military to military channels,” the official said.