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Biden, Xi speak amid rising tensions, possible Pelosi trip to Taiwan – NBC News

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke Thursday amid growing tensions between the two countries around Taiwan, the economy and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The call, Biden’s fifth with Xi, lasted over two hours, though past calls have lasted around as long because the conversations need to be translated. The two leaders discussed a number of issues hanging over both Biden and Xi at home and abroad, including the economic slowdowns facing both countries, the effects of Russia’s invasion and the continuing Covid pandemic.

The two leaders also discussed Tawain, an issue that has added pressure on their relationship in recent months. U.S. officials have raised alarm over the fate of the self-ruling democracy that Beijing claims as its territory as China has been increasing its military activity around Taiwan. According to a readout of the call provided by China, Xi reiterated China’s opposition to Taiwanese independence.

Biden said in May during a trip to Japan that the U.S. would be willing to intervene militarily if China were to invade Taiwan, drawing a strong rebuke from Chinese officials.

China has also issued a series of threats in recent days around ​​House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s possible trip to Taiwan.

Biden has said that U.S. military officials believe it was “not a good idea right now” for Pelosi to travel to Taiwan though both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have urged her to go. Pelosi’s office hasn’t confirmed whether she will stop in Taiwan during a trip to Asia next month. 

Ahead of the call, John Kirby, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, said Biden was seeking to keep the lines of communication open with China and to cooperate on issues where there is common ground, while trying to improve areas where there is tension. 

“The president wants to make sure the lines of communication with President Xi remain open, because they need to,” he said.

Kirby downplayed the threats China has made around a possible visit by Pelosi.

“Frankly, that kind of rhetoric is unnecessary and uncalled for,” he said in a call with reporters Wednesday. He said China’s statements only “escalates tensions and is completely unnecessary. So we find that unhelpful and certainly not in the least bit necessary, given the situation.”

Biden has also been seeking to blunt China’s support for Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

Beijing hasn’t publicly condemned the invasion and increased its purchasing of discounted Russian oil. During a call with Xi in March, Biden warned him that there would be consequences for Beijing if it provided “material support” for Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

The White House didn’t immediately say whether Biden discussed lifting tariffs on China. Biden said in May that he was reviewing whether to lift some of the $350 billion in tariffs placed on China under the Trump administration, a move that could help ease prices for American consumers. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who spoke with China’s top trade negotiator earlier this month, has said eliminating some of those tariffs could help ease inflation, though the effects would be limited. 

China’s Covid lockdowns have had a ripple effect on the U.S. economy by contributing to disruptions in the global supply chain.

China faces its own economic struggles. Its “zero-Covid” policies have led to rolling lockdowns across the country that have drastically slowed the country’s economic growth.

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