Joe Biden and Xi Jinping trade strong words in first phone call – 'War would be disaster'

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The President spoke to the Chinese Communist Chairman over the phone yesterday, marking the first contact the pair have had since Mr Biden won the US election. In a statement, the White House detailed the US’ priorities in the Indo-Pacific, calling out alleged Chinese human rights violations to Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Mr Biden “affirmed” to the Chinese leader the US will prioritise American security and “underscored” his concerns with Beijing.

According to the White House statement, after exchanging well wishes for the Lunar New Year holiday, Mr Biden “affirmed his priorities of protecting the American people’s security, prosperity, health, and way of life, and preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

The statement added: “President Biden underscored his fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan.

“The two leaders also exchanged views on countering the COVID-19 pandemic, and the shared challenges of global health security, climate change, and preventing weapons proliferation.

“President Biden committed to pursuing practical, results-oriented engagements when it advances the interests of the American people and those of our allies.”

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A senior official in the Biden administration suggested the President would be “practical, hard-headed, clear-eyed” when dealing with Mr Xi.

But the official added to reporters Mr Biden wanted to ensure the two of them had the opportunity to have an open line of communication, despite US concerns about Chinese behaviour.

They then said the call came at a time when the United States believed it was in a position of strength, after consultations with allies and partners, to lay out core concerns about China’s “aggressive activities and abuses”.

The Biden administration will look at “new targeted restrictions” for sensitive technology exports to China, and is in no ruse to lift Donald Trump’s trade tariffs on China, according to the official.

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Mr Biden has repeatedly stated he will be “tough” on China as President, and has already supported military drills in the South China Sea.

In an interview with CBS on Sunday, the President called Beijing Washington’s “most serious competitor”.

Signalling a change in relations from Mr Trump’s aggressive stance on China, Mr Biden said Washington and Beijing’s relationship would be characterised by “extreme competition”.

He added about Mr Xi: “He doesn’t have – and I don’t mean this is a criticism, just the reality, he doesn’t have a democratic, small D, bone in his body.”

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It follows Antony Blinken, Mr Biden’s US Secretary of State, spoke to Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi.

Similar to the President’s phone calls, Mr Blinken warned the diplomat Washington would stand up for human rights in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong.

Just days earlier, Mr Yang warned the Biden administration events in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong were internal affairs and were not of any concern to the US.

He said: “They constitute a red line that must not be crossed. Any trespassing would end up undermining China-U.S. relations, and the United States’s own interests.”

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While serving as Vice President to Barack Obama, Mr Biden claimed he spent 24 to 25 hours of private meeting with Xi Jinping and had travelled 17,000 miles with him.

On Tuesday, the USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt carried out a joint naval exercise in the South China Sea.

Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo said: “Through operations like this, we ensure that we are tactically proficient to meet the challenge of maintaining peace and we are able to continue to show our partners and allies in the region that we are committed to promoting a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”

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