Biden and Xi look to calm Taiwan nerves with phone call

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US president Joe Biden and China's Xi Jinping are set to hold a phone call amid escalating concerns over Nancy Pelosi’s proposed Taiwan visit, in what officials believe would be a step towards reducing tensions.

White House officials said on Wednesday the call had been long planned and would include a broad range of issues, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which China has not explicitly condemned yet.

This would also be the fifth phone call between two leaders since Mr Biden took over as president in 2020.

However, at its core, the phone call seems like a move to reduce tensions amid heightened threats from China over Ms Pelosi’s proposed visit to Taipei, something that will be seen as the US bolstering its support for Taiwan which China claims as its own territory.

Just before the phone call, Beijing has once again threatened Washington on Wednesday that it would “bear the consequences” if Ms Pelosi visits Taiwan.

But the US officials believe the call could be a way to mend fences between the two countries as already existing tensions over human rights concerns in China and technology sector competition between the world’s two largest economies have further soared with the issue of Taiwan.

“This is about keeping the lines of communication open with the president of China, one of the most consequential bilateral relationships that we have, not just in that region, but around the world, because it touches so much,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday.

Reuters news agency quoted a person briefed on planning for the call saying that the Biden administration thinks leader-to-leader engagement is the best way to lower tensions over Taiwan.

Mr Biden also wants to discuss climate and economic competition issues, the person briefed said according to Reuters, as well as the idea of placing a price cap on Russian oil to punish Moscow for its war in Ukraine, an issue Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen raised with Chinese counterparts earlier in July.

Also Read: Why is Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan causing tensions?

Mr Xi has vowed to reunite Taiwan with the mainland by force if necessary and denies that it is an independent country. Taiwan has been facing increasing Chinese military and economic threats.

Meanwhile, Ms Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan will be read as a grand gesture of support for Taipei by the US and would be the first to the country by a sitting US House speaker since 1997.

While Ms Pelosi is yet to confirm her visit that has sparked a diplomatic row between the two countries. Mr Kirby said the administration has been in touch with her to make sure she has “all the context” she needs to make decisions about her travel.

Additional reporting by agencies

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