Xi warns Biden against ‘playing with fire’ over Taiwan
Pentagon working on security plan for Pelosi’s possible trip
Taiwan holds massive Han Kuang military drills
Washington DC: President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping held the fifth conversation of their presidencies on Thursday, speaking for more than two hours as they chart the future of their complicated relationship at a time of simmering economic and geopolitical tensions.
The goal of the call, which began at 8:33 a.m. EDT and ended at 10:50 a.m. EDT, was to “responsibly manage our differences and work together where our interests align,” the White House said. As usual, China left no doubt that it blames the U.S. for the deteriorating relationship between the two countries.
Differing perspectives on global health, economic policy, and human rights have long tested the relationship — with China’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine adding further strain. The latest strain over Taiwan is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s potential visit to the island, which has governed itself for decades but China asserts as part of its territory.
Beijing has said it would view such a trip as a provocation, a threat U.S. officials are taking with heightened seriousness in light of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.
Pelosi would be the highest-ranking U.S. elected official to travel to Taiwan since Republican Newt Gingrich visited the island in 1997 when he was House speaker. But a quarter-century later, conditions changed drastically. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government is richer, more heavily armed, and less willing to compromise over Taiwan following news reports the current speaker, Nancy Pelosi, might become the most senior U.S. official since Gingrich to visit the island.
Biden last week told reporters that U.S. military officials believed it was “not a good idea” for the speaker to visit the island at the moment.
A career capstone for Pelosi
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched her political career being tough on China — a new congresswoman who dared to unfurl a pro-democracy banner in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square during a 1991 visit with other U.S. lawmakers shortly after the student massacre.
More than 30 years later, her interest in traveling to Taiwan presents a powerful diplomatic capstone. It has also contributed to tensions at the highest levels in Washington and Beijing among officials who worry a trip could prove provocative.