Washington/Beijing – Chinese leader Xi Jinping warned against playing with fire over Taiwan in a call with United States president Joe Biden on Thursday, highlighting Beijing’s concerns about a possible visit to the Chinese-claimed island by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Xi said Washington should abide by the “one-China principle” and stressed that China firmly opposes Taiwanese independence and outside interference.
“Those who play with fire will perish by it,” China’s foreign ministry quoted Xi as telling Biden in their fifth call as leaders. “It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this.”
Biden told Xi that U.S. policy on Taiwan had not changed and that Washington strongly opposed unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, the White House said.
Following the call, Taiwan thanked Biden for his support and said it would continue to deepen its security partnership with the United States, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.
The White House said the long-scheduled call was part of the administration’s efforts to deepen lines of communication with China and “responsibly manage our differences”.
It has been particularly anxious to lower the temperature on Taiwan.
A visit by the House Speaker would be a dramatic, though not unprecedented, show of American support for the island, and some analysts worry such a move at a time of fraught U.S. ties with Beijing could spur a major crisis and even unintended clashes.
A senior U.S. official said Biden and Xi had discussed the possibility of holding a first face-to-face meeting as leaders and directed their teams to look into this.
Biden stressed the importance of maintaining lines of communication on Taiwan and the two also discussed areas where there was the potential to expand cooperation, including climate change, health security and counter-narcotics, the official said.
While highlighting Taiwan, Xi also stressed that the world’s two largest economies needed to maintain communication on macro-economic policies, global supply chains, and safeguarding global food and energy security, China’s read-out said.
The senior U.S. official also emphasised the importance of macro-economic coordination.
Beijing issued escalating warnings about repercussions should Pelosi – a Democrat like Biden – visit Taiwan.
Xi has vowed to bring Taiwan under Beijing’s control, by force if necessary.