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Xi Tells Biden Not To ‘Play With Fire’ On Taiwan In 2-Hour Call

Above Photo: China described the exchange between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping as ‘candid’. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty.

A US official says Biden and Xi agreed to meet in person.

Note: Press TV reports that China is conducting military exercises ahead of Pelosi’s potential trip to Taiwan. Pelosi will not confirm her travel plans. 

China is conducting war games in the Taiwan Strait ahead of a possible visit to Taipei by Speaker of the US House of Representative Nancy Pelosi. The live-fire military maneuvers on Saturday was announced via the Chinese state media a day earlier, raising the stakes ahead of the planned visit by Pelosi to the self-ruled island territory claimed by China.

The drills will be limited in scope and will take place off the island of Pingtan in Fujian province, according to the statement that was reportedly issued on Thursday but not released by Chinese state media until Friday.

The development came as US President Joe Biden’s administration sought on Friday to defuse heated Chinese warnings against Pelosi’s potential visit to Taipei as part of her East Asia tour intended to push Washington’s escalating measures to undermine Beijing in the region.

Pelosi — who would be traveling on US military aircraft during her Asia tour – confirmed to reporters on Friday that she planned the provocative visit to Taiwan because of the Biden administration’s “strong emphasis” on the Asia-Pacific region. However, she pointedly refused to confirm that she would indeed visit the self-ruled island citing travel security considerations.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Biden held a two-hour call on Thursday that came amid simmering tensions over Taiwan as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is planning to visit the island next month.

According to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, Xi told Biden that China was committed to resisting “interference by external forces” on Taiwan. “Those who play with fire will perish by it,” he said. “It is hoped that the US will be clear-eyed about this.”

According to a White House readout of the call, Biden told Xi that US policy “has not changed and that the United States strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

Despite the warnings over Taiwan, the two leaders agreed to hold a face-to-face meeting. “They also 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,” a senior Biden administration official told reporters after the call.

China has made clear that it will respond to Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, and Biden administration officials have said they fear the visit could spark a major crisis across the Taiwan Strait. But the administration insists that it can’t stop Pelosi from going, which Beijing finds hard to believe.

The US military is preparing to deploy more forces to the region if Pelosi goes through with her trip, which is expected to happen sometime in August. The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group are currently transiting the South China Sea after leaving Singapore.

The simmering tensions over Taiwan demonstrate the state of US-China relations, which are at their lowest point since Washington and Beijing formally established relations in 1979. Biden has made clear that he views China as a rival, and previously said the US and China are in a competition to “win the 21st century.”

In Thursday’s call, Xi told Biden that he didn’t agree with this characterization of the US-China relationship. According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Xi “underscored that to approach and define China-US relations in terms of strategic competition and view China as the primary rival and the most serious long-term challenge would be misperceiving China-US relations.”

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