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Biden and Xi discuss Taiwan, Pelosi, human rights and COVID: White House

The White House characterised the US President Joe Biden’s call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Thursday as “straight-forward” after China’s foreign ministry reported that Xi warned Biden against playing with fire over Taiwan, highlighting Beijing’s concerns about a possible visit to the Chinese-claimed island by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Mr Biden told Xi that US policy on Taiwan had not changed and that Washington strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, the White House said, referring to the 100-mile-wide body of water separating the island from the mainland.

Biden had stressed the importance of maintaining open lines of communication on Taiwan and the two also discussed areas of cooperation, including climate change, health security and counter-narcotics, White House press secretary, Jean-Pierre said.

Beijing has issued escalating warnings about repercussions should Pelosi – a Democrat like Biden – visit Taiwan, which says it is facing increasing Chinese military and economic threats. A visit by the House speaker would be a dramatic, though not unprecedented, show of US support for the island, and some analysts worry such a move at a time of fraught ties could spur a major crisis and even unintended clashes. China has given few clues to specific responses it might make if Pelosi, a long-time critic of Beijing, particularly on human rights issues, makes the trip, which she has yet to confirm.

Washington follows a “one-China policy” that recognises Beijing, not Taipei, diplomatically. But it is obliged by US law to provide the democratically governed island with the means to defend itself, and pressure has mounted in Congress for more explicit support.

The presidents’ call lasted over two hours. US officials had said it would have a broad agenda, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which China has yet to condemn.

Taiwan-US security partnership to tighten

Following Thursday’s conversation between the US and Chinese leaders, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said on Friday that it will continue to deepen its close security partnership with the United States.

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