China eyeing Biden-Xi meeting if Alaska talks go well: Sources

A 2015 file photo showing Chinese President Xi Jinping and then US Vice-President Joe Biden at a state luncheon in Washington. Chinese officials envision a Biden-Xi meeting organised around Earth Day on April 22 to show that both leaders are focused
A 2015 file photo showing Chinese President Xi Jinping and then US Vice-President Joe Biden at a state luncheon in Washington. Chinese officials envision a Biden-Xi meeting organised around Earth Day on April 22 to show that both leaders are focused on combating climate change, according to a source.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • Beijing is seeking a meeting between United States President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping next month if the first high-level US-China talks in Alaska are productive, according to people familiar with the situation.

The Biden-Xi meeting, as envisioned by Chinese officials, would be organised around Earth Day on April 22 to show that both leaders are focused on combating climate change, a source said.

Mr Biden is already set to gather global leaders together on that day to push the world for greater ambition in curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Both the US and China have played down expectations for the talks in Alaska, which are set to run till today (local time).

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will represent the US, while Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Politburo member Yang Jiechi will speak for China.

China's expectations for the meeting aren't "too high", Mr Cui Tiankai, China's Ambassador to the US, said in comments reported by state-run China Central Television.

Both countries have sparred over how to describe the talks, with the US disputing China's characterisation of the meeting as a "high-level strategic dialogue".

Mr Blinken on Wednesday said it will be an opportunity "to very directly, face to face, share with our Chinese counterparts the concerns that the United States has, that our allies and partners have, about some of the things that China is doing".

The US and China have sparred over issues such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang in calls since Mr Biden took office, which Beijing has insisted are "internal" issues.

But US officials have also sought to stress areas of potential cooperation, including on climate change and nuclear non-proliferation.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2021, with the headline 'China eyeing Biden-Xi meeting if Alaska talks go well: Sources'. Subscribe