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U.S. and China presidents to meet during G20 summit

Ahead of US President Joe Biden’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping during next week’s G20 summit in Indonesia’s resort island of Bali, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Thursday that both countries should work together.

He offered the comment in response to a question regarding reports of the said meeting.

Although the spokesperson said China was committed to realise peaceful co-existence with the United States, he nonetheless stressed, at a regular briefing in Beijing, that the Taiwan question was at the core of its interests.

The United States must drop the weaponisation of trade issues and take real action to defend the role of the market economy, according to Mr Zhao.

For the time being, President Joe Biden descends on Egypt to later kick off his week-long trip to Asia on Thursday – one undertaken to tackle some of the United States’ most sensitive foreign policy issues. There are two stages set for prospective discussions. Firstly, an ASEAN meeting and the East Asia Summit in Cambodia on Saturday and Sunday. Secondly, the annual gathering of the Group of 20 industrialized nations (G20) taking place in Indonesia from November 14 to November 16.

It is in that latter setting that Mr Biden is expected to hold his first face-to-face meeting with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, hoping to explore Mr Xi’s “red lines”, talk with allies about punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and discuss containing North Korea after a spree of missile tests.

Reporters heard Joe Biden saying on Wednesday that his goal is to get a deeper understanding of Mr Xi’s priorities and concerns through discussion that taps into the highly flammable topic of Taiwan.

In Mr Biden’s own words, he wants to lay out “what each of our red lines are,” understand what Mr Xi believes to be in the national interest of China, discuss U.S. interests, and “determine whether or not they conflict with one another.”

No public date or time for the meeting has been revealed so far. NEXTA, an online media outlet, tweeted that Beijing has not confirmed Mr Xi’s participation in the G20 summit. However, larger media platforms have not delivered this kind of news.

#Chinese Foreign Ministry: #Beijing does not confirm #XiJinping's participation in the #G20 summit.

The meeting of G20 member countries will be held on the #Indonesian island of #Bali on November 15-16.

— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) November 10, 2022

“The big question is… are the two leaders going to come in a sort of more conciliatory mode or sort of a more defiant one,” senior vice president for economics at the Center for Strategic & International Studies Matthew Goodman said.

“They’ve both gotten through their political events of the year,” he said, referring to China’s Party Congress and the U.S. midterm elections. With these checkpoints on their agenda, they could dedicate time to finding common ground.

As U.S. officials said, President Biden would also reaffirm America’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, a rules-based international order in the South China Sea, and discuss trade and China’s relationship with countries in the region.

’Unapologetic’ defender of Ukraine

In the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Biden’s plan is to remain “unapologetic” in his defence of Ukraine, as his administration faces new challenges at home to outdo Russia’s funding sources eight months into the war, which the Kremlin dubs a “special military operation”. The man from the White House would also address the war’s impact on energy and food security at the G20 meeting, according to the officials.

Ukraine will continue to receive uninterrupted aid from the U.S., Mr Biden said on Wednesday. He stressed that any territorial compromise between the two countries is up to Ukraine. President Biden also expressed his hope that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin would show the will to talk about a potential prisoner swap to secure the release of U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner.

But any potential discussion with Russia’s dictator would have to wait as he will not attend the G20 summit in person. However, an Indonesian government official said that Putin would join one of the meetings virtually.

For his part, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, also invited by Indonesia, said he would not take part if Putin did and was expected to join virtually.

Keeping North Korea at bay

Mr Biden is also set to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk-Yeol during the ASEAN summit in Cambodia on November 13 for a brainstorming session on how to contain North Korea’s nuclear program, a White House official said.

They will address North Korea’s “unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs,” the official said as quoted by Reuters.

Signatories, eyes on the road

On Friday, during the COP27 summit in Egypt, Mr Biden is expected to remind the 196 parties who signed on to the Paris Climate Agreement to stay the course of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to senior Biden administration officials.

The president is expected to demonstrate in speech and bilateral meetings how Washington was extending a helping hand to developing countries to lower emissions by tapping into public and private partnerships. U.S. efforts to decarbonize sectors such as shipping and the pledge to lower methane emissions would also be laid out on the discussion table, the officials said.

Meeting Sisi, talking human rights

While in Egypt, on the sidelines of the COP27 summit, President Biden will meet Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi with human rights “featuring prominently” in bilateral talks.

The U.S. has “raised repeated concerns” about jailed activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah, whose case has attracted global attention, with his health deteriorating during a 200-plus day hunger strike, Reuters reported.

Mr Biden will “continue to urge the Egyptian government to release political prisoners and undertake human rights related legal reforms,” said one of the officials.

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