Amid simmering tensions, US and Chinese Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping discussed the Taiwan issue during which the American leader said Washington strongly opposed any unilateral moves to change the island’s status, while his counterpart warned that “whoever plays with fire will perish”.
The White House in a statement, citing a senior administration official, said Thursday’s call was the fifth time the two Presidents spoke on the phone since Biden came into office in January 2021.
The conversation lasted about two hours and 20 minutes.
The official said that the two leaders had “a direct and honest discussion” on Taiwan and “President Biden reaffirmed the US’ commitment to our One China Policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances”.
Under the One China Policy, Washington does not recognise Taipei diplomatically.
During the call, Biden also underscored “the US’ opposition to unilateral changes to the status quo by either side, and commitment to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait”, said the official.
The two Presidents further stressed that “keeping an open line of communication” on the Taiwan issue is essential despite differences that they have managed for over 40 years, the White House statement added.
In its summary of the conversation, China said that Xi highlighted “the historical context of the Taiwan question is crystal clear, and so are the fact and status quo that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one and the same China”, reports Xinhua news agency.
“China firmly opposes secession aimed at ‘Taiwan independence’ and external interference, and never allows any room for ‘Taiwan independence’ forces in whatever form.
“The position of the Chinese government and people on the Taiwan question is consistent… The will of the people cannot be defied and those who play with fire will perish by it… It is hoped that the US will be clear-eyed about this,” the President was quoted as saying.
Apart from the Taiwan issue, the two leaders also discussed areas where the two countries can work together, with particular focus on climate change, health security, counter-narcotics.
Biden and Xi also exchanged views on Russia’s war in Ukraine and the global impacts it is having.
The Presidents further discussed the value of meeting face-to-face and agreed to have their teams follow up to find a mutually agreeable time to do so, the White House quoted the senior administration official as saying.
Tensions have increased over the Taiwan issue ahead of a rumoured plan for US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit Taiwan, reports the BBC.
Although Pelosi is yet to official announce her travel plan, China has already warned of “serious consequences” if she were to proceed.
Pelosi would be the highest-ranking US politician to travel to Taiwan since 1997.