Don't 'play with fire' over Taiwan, China's Xi warns in call with Biden

 Don't 'play with fire' over Taiwan, China's Xi warns in call with Biden

Honour guards lower the Taiwan flag during sunset hours at Liberty Square in Taipei, Taiwan, on Thursday.

WASHINGTON/BEIJING--Chinese leader Xi Jinping warned against playing with fire over Taiwan in a call with U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday, highlighting Beijing's concerns about a possible visit to the Chinese-claimed island by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"Those who play with fire will perish by it," China's foreign ministry quoted Xi as telling Biden in their fifth call as leaders. "It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this."
Xi said Washington should abide by the "one-China principle" and stressed that China firmly opposes Taiwanese independence and outside interference. Biden told Xi U.S. 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.
The White House said the long-scheduled call was part of the administration's efforts to deepen lines of communication with China and "responsibly manage our differences."
It has been particularly anxious to lower the temperature on Taiwan. A visit by the House speaker would be a dramatic, though not unprecedented, show of U.S. support for the island, and some analysts worry such a move at a time of fraught U.S. ties with Beijing could spur a major crisis and even unintended clashes.
Scott Kennedy, a China analyst at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, said leader-level contacts were essential to preventing this. "One hopes they've done enough to avoid a collision in the near term, but it's clear there needs to be much more frequent and in-depth communication," he said.
A senior U.S. official said Biden and Xi had discussed the possibility of holding a first face-to-face meeting as leaders and directed their teams to look into this. Biden stressed the importance of maintaining lines of communication on Taiwan and the two also discussed areas where there was the potential to expand cooperation, including climate change, health security and counter-narcotics, the official said.
While highlighting Taiwan, Xi also stressed that the world's two largest economies needed to maintain communication on macroeconomic policies, global supply chains, and safeguarding global food and energy security, China's readout said. The senior U.S. official also emphasized the importance of macroeconomic coordination.
Beijing has issued escalating warnings about repercussions should Pelosi - a Democrat like Biden - visit Taiwan. Xi has vowed to bring Taiwan under Beijing's control, by force if necessary.
China has given few clues to specific responses it might make if Pelosi makes the trip, which she has yet to confirm. The U.S. official told reporters Xi had used similar language about Taiwan before and said the two sides acknowledged differing views that have existed for 40 years. "The conversation between the two about Taiwan, it was direct and it was honest," the official said, while declining to offer more specific details about Biden's message to Xi.
The call lasted over two hours. U.S. officials had said it would have a broad agenda, including Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which China has yet to condemn.
Washington follows a "one-China policy" that recognizes Beijing, not Taipei, diplomatically. But it is obliged by U.S. law to provide the democratically governed Taiwan with the means to defend itself, and pressure has mounted in Congress for more explicit support.
Some analysts believe Xi has an interest in avoiding escalation as he seeks an unprecedented third term in office this year. Others say playing up the Taiwan issue could serve Xi as a domestic distraction from China's slowing economy.

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