V-P Harris meets briefly with China’s Xi, calls for US-China communication

US Vice-President Kamala Harris meets China's President Xi Jinping before the Apec Leaders' Retreat in Bangkok, Thailand on Nov 19, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK – United States Vice-President Kamala Harris met Chinese President Xi Jinping briefly at a Bangkok summit on Saturday, a White House official said, as leaders of the world’s biggest economies continue to cool tensions.

Ms Harris reinforced Mr Biden’s message that “we must maintain open lines of communication to responsibly manage the competition between our countries”, the official said, on condition of anonymity.

Mr Biden and Mr Xi agreed to restore dialogue across a range of sectors while meeting for more than three hours at an oceanside resort on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Bali, Indonesia.

Mr Xi told Ms Harris his meeting with Mr Biden has been “strategic and constructive, and gives important guidance to the next stage of Sino-US relations”.

“I hope both sides will step up mutual understanding, reduce misunderstanding and misjudgment, and together push for Sino-US relations to return to a health and stable track,” Mr Xi said, according to the official Xinhua news agency. “I hope Madam Vice-President can help actively with this.”

The US and China have sought to stem deteriorating ties over issues, including Taiwan, human rights and technology restrictions. While those issues remain sticking points, the shift in tone helped lift Chinese stocks and the yuan. 

“I’m not suggesting this is kumbaya. You know, everybody’s going to go away with everything in agreement,” Mr Biden told reporters in Bali after his meeting with Mr Xi.

However, he added, “I absolutely believe there need not be a new Cold War”.

The Biden-Xi summit and the brief meeting with Ms Harris come ahead of a planned visit to China early next year by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the first by the top US diplomat since 2018. 

Ms Harris on Friday held crisis talks on Pyongyang’s latest missile launch with the prime ministers of five US partners – Japan, South Korea, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – to issue a strong condemnation of North Korea.

“We do think that Beijing has a role to play,” another senior US official accompanying Ms Harris said on Friday. 

China should use its influence to persuade North Korea “not to go in this provocative direction, which only destabilises the region and the world”, the official said. 

Tensions between the US and China have soared in particular over Taiwan, the self-ruling democracy claimed by Beijing. 

China in August carried out major military exercises seen as a trial run for an invasion after a solidarity visit to Taiwan by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Mr Xi told Mr Biden that support for Taiwan was a red line.

Mr Biden later told reporters that the two leaders understood each other’s positions, and that he did not expect an “imminent” invasion of Taiwan. 

The US has also been pressing China to limit support for Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, with US officials cautiously upbeat that Beijing has not sent military supplies. BLOOMBERG, AFP

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.