US and Chinese presidents discuss Taiwan, Ukraine

US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping have held their first direct talks since meeting in November, with Biden looking to keep tensions from mounting ahead of Taiwan's presidential inauguration in May.

Biden was expected to use the call, which has concluded, to reaffirm US support for the "One China policy" and reiterate the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, a senior US administration official who did not wish to be named said.

Biden and Xi agreed in November to reopen military communications and co-operate to curb fentanyl production.

They have not spoken on the phone since July 2022.

After November's meeting, Biden told reporters he had not changed his view that Xi is a dictator, a comment that irked the Chinese government.

US and Chinese flags
US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in November in San Francisco.

China regards Taiwan, a self-governed island with democratic elections, as part of its territory and recently dropped language about a "peaceful reunification" from its budget.

Taiwan strongly objects to China's sovereignty claims and says only the island's people can decide their future.

Taiwan's current Vice President Lai Ching-te, who officials in Beijing view as a separatist, won the presidency in January and China has increased pressure on Taiwan ahead of the inauguration in May.

On Tuesday, Biden and Xi will also discuss concerns over China's support for Russia's war against Ukraine, its economic trade practices, human rights abuses in Xinjiang and discuss the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, the US official said.

Biden is also likely to warn China over escalating confrontations in the South China Sea, which China claims almost entirely.

"The president may also express concern over destabilising PRC actions in the South China Sea, including the dangerous recent action of the PRC Coast Guard against routine Philippine maritime operations," the official said.

Biden and Xi have continued their talks looking to smooth over a rocky period in relations that took a turn for the worse after a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon transited the United States and was shot down by a US fighter jet last year.

Relations have shown signs of improvement in recent months as both sides took steps to re-establish channels of communication after ties between the two global superpowers sank to their lowest levels in decades.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in January followed by a February meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will travel to China in April.

Biden and Xi will also talk about ways to manage competition, avoid conflict and keep lines of communication open.

"Intense competition requires intense diplomacy to manage tensions, address mis-perceptions and prevent unintended conflict. And this call is one way to do that," the senior US administration official said.

Biden's administration has imposed bans on the sale of certain technologies to Chinese companies, citing national security risks.

China has accused the US of "weaponising" economic and trade issues.

The two leaders will also discuss a number of areas where US and Chinese interests align, including counternarcotics efforts, risk and safety issues related to artificial intelligence, resumption of military-to-military communications and efforts to fight climate change, the official said.

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