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Amid tensions, Biden, Xi discuss restoring US-China military communication

Philip Pacheco/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(SAN FRANCISCO) —¬†President Joe Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping on Wednesday were holding their first face-face meeting in more than a year amid tensions in the U.S.-China relationship.

Fort security reasons, the two leaders were holding talks at a private location in the San Francisco area near where the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit is being held this week.

The two men smiled and shook hands after Biden walked out to greet his Chinese counterpart and then the leaders immediately walked inside.

With the delegations seated around a large conference table, Biden said, “I value our conversation because I think it’s paramount that you understand each other clearly leader-to-leader with no misconceptions or miscommunication. We have to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict.”

Noting their personal history, Biden expressed his appreciation for their “straightforward and frank” discussions in the past.

“We haven’t always agreed, which was not a surprise to anyone, but our meetings have always been candid, straightforward and useful. I’ve never doubted what you’ve told me in terms of your candid nature in which you speak,” Biden said.

He ended his remarks by telling Xi, “Welcome back.”

“For two large countries like China and United States, Turning our back on each other is not an option,” Xi told Biden in return, according to translation. “It is unrealistic for one side to remodel the other, and conflict and confrontation has unbearable consequences for both sides,” Xi continued, according to translation.

“It is an objective fact that China and the United States are different in history, culture, social system, and development paths,” he said. “However, as long as they respect each other, coexist in peace, and pursue win-win cooperation they will be fully capable of rising above differences, and find the right way for the two major countries to get along with each other. I firmly believe in a promising future of the bilateral relationship.”

“I look forward to to an in-depth exchange of views,” Xi said.

Cameras and reporters were then led out of the room.

Before leaving Washington, Biden said his goal was “to get back on a normal course of corresponding, being able to pick up the phone and talk to one another when there’s another crisis, being able to make sure our militaries still have contact with one another.”

Officials have said a key objective was to restore military-to-military communication that the Pentagon has said has essentially stopped amid incidents involving the nations’ ships and planes, with tensions around Taiwan especially concerning.

Other items on the summit agenda, U.S. officials say, include Biden expected to press China to use its leverage with Iran to persuade Tehran to stop its proxies from attacking U.S. forces in the Middle East and escalating the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Biden has also called on China not to supply weapons to Russia to aid in its invasion of Ukraine — and to press North Korea not to do so.

The talks, officials say, also may yield promises of cooperation in areas such as climate change and combatting the fentanyl trade.

President Biden was scheduled to hold a news conference Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. EST after the meeting ends.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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