China Won't Confirm Biden-Xi Meeting

(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Beijing declined to confirm reported plans for President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping to meet in San Francisco next month.

According to a Washington Post report on Thursday, the White House is making plans for a face-to-face meeting between Biden and Xi as the two countries seek to stabilize troubled relations.

Ties between the world's two largest economies have been strained in recent years due to a number of issues including Taiwan, the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, allegations of spying, human rights issues and trade tariffs, among others.

The newspaper, which cited senior unidentified U.S. officials, quoted one of them as saying the possibility of a meeting was "pretty firm."

"We're beginning the process" of planning, the official was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

The Chinese embassy in Washington did not comment specifically on the newspaper report. A spokesperson of the embassy said in an emailed statement that the two countries remained in communication and needed to expand "good faith" cooperation. The White House did not have an immediate comment.

The meeting would follow other high-level engagements between the two countries in recent months that have seen visits from U.S. officials to China like Secretary of State Antony Blinken in June, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in July, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in August.

More recently, Blinken met Chinese vice president Han Zheng in New York and U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Malta.

The Biden administration has taken criticism for the series of officials it's sent to dialogue with China. Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and presidential candidate Nikki Haley last month called it "embarrassing" that Biden has sent a parade of officials to "appease" China.

Biden and Xi's last meeting was on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia in November 2022, which was their first in person meeting since Biden became president. They previously had five exchanges by phone and video conference after Biden took office.

China's top security agency hinted last month any meeting between Xi and Biden will depend on the United States "showing sufficient sincerity."

U.S. officials like Raimondo and Yellen have recently said the United States did not want to decouple from China but Beijing has expressed concern over U.S. approval of arms sales and military financing to Taiwan.

San Francisco will host an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November that Xi may attend. Xi recently skipped the G20 summit in New Delhi that Biden attended.

(Reporting by Jasper Ward and Kanishka Singh; editing by Chris Sanders, Chris Reese and Kim Coghill)