By Steve Holland and David Brunnstrom
SAN DIEGO (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said on Monday, after unveiling details of a major submarine deal with Britain and Australia aimed at countering China, that he expected to speak with Chinese leader Xi Jinping soon. , but declined to say when.
Asked in a meeting with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in San Diego if he was concerned that China would see the AUKUS submarine deal as aggression, Biden replied “no.”
When asked if he would speak to Xi soon, Biden replied “yes”, but when asked again whether he would tell reporters when they spoke, he replied “no”.
Biden said in mid-February that he expected to talk to Xi about what the United States called a Chinese spy balloon that flew over American airspace, worsening already strained relations, but no such call has been announced.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said last week that the US wants to re-establish regular communications with China and Biden should talk to Xi by phone sometime after the Chinese government returns to work after the annual Congress National People’s Day which ended on Monday.
The AUKUS deal to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines aims to counter China in the Indo-Pacific, and Beijing has condemned it as an illegal act of nuclear proliferation.
“Competition requires dialogue and diplomacy,” Sullivan told a small group of reporters last week referring to China while discussing AUKUS. “We encourage the PRC (People’s Republic of China) to have regularized reporting patterns at the highest levels.”
When asked when a phone call with Xi might take place, Sullivan replied: “When the People’s Congress is over and the government, including the president, returns to work in Beijing, the (US) president anticipates the opportunity to engage in a phone call”.
“Over the course of 18 months, we communicated with (China) about AUKUS and asked them for more information on their intentions,” Sullivan added, referring to China’s military buildup, including nuclear-powered submarines.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular briefing on Tuesday that both China and the United States are maintaining necessary communications.
“We believe that the value and meaning of communication is to enhance the level of understanding and manage our differences, not to communicate for the sake of communicating. The US side should come forward sincerely, with practical actions to promote China-US relations,” Wang said.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Xi plans to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the first time since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The phone call likely took place following Xi’s visit to Moscow next week to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the paper said.
Sullivan told reporters en route to San Diego on Monday that Washington has publicly and privately encouraged Xi to talk to Zelenskiy so they would hear “not just the Russian perspective” on the war.
Sullivan added that Ukraine has not confirmed a call between Xi and Zelenskiy.
(Reporting by Steve Holland and David Brunnstrom; Additional reporting by Michael Martina, Joe Cash in Beijing; Editing by Grant McCool and Stephen Coates)