US and Chinese officials have been discussing a face-to-face meeting between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping, amid a significant escalation in friction over Taiwan.
Kurt Campbell, the coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs in Biden’s national security council, confirmed on Friday that the two leaders had raised the possibility of an in-person meeting when they last talked by phone in late July “and agreed to have their team’s follow up to sort out the specifics”.
Campbell said there were no new details to announce, but both leaders are expected to take part in the G20 meeting in November in Bali.
The military exercises China has been conducting in the Taiwan Strait have wound down for the time being but Campbell told reporters: “They are part of an intensified pressure campaign against Taiwan which has not ended and we expect it to continue to unfold in the coming weeks and months.
“The goal of this campaign is clear: to intimidate and coerce Taiwan and undermine its resilience,” he said, adding that China’s purported outrage over the visit to Taiwan by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, was only a “pretext” to change the status quo in the region.
Campbell said that the US would continue to ensure freedom of navigation in the Taiwan Strait and in the region.
“We will not be reflexive or kneejerk,” he said. “We will be patient and effective. We will continue to fly, sail and operate where international law allows, consistent with our longstanding commitment to freedom of navigation and that includes conducting standard air and maritime transits through the Taiwan Strait in the next few weeks.”
He did not give details of when the transits would take place, or confirm reports that the US had opted not to sail an aircraft carrier through the strait on the grounds that it would be too provocative.
He did confirm, however, that Biden had ordered the carrier USS Ronald Reagan to remain “on station” in the region.