By Martin Quin Pollard and Eduardo Baptista
BEIJING (Reuters) – China on Friday denounced a White House plan for Taiwan over the outcome of a much-anticipated meeting between President Joe Biden and his counterpart, Xi Jinping, next week on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in to inform Indonesia.
The two leaders will meet on Monday, the White House said, for their first face-to-face meeting since Biden became president, amid low expectations for significant breakthroughs. China confirmed the planned meeting but did not give a date.
Relations between China and the United States are at their worst in decades, strained over issues including trade and technology, human rights and Taiwan, the self-governing democratic island that Beijing claims as its territory. Taiwan rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan announced the plan to inform Taiwan of the talks on Thursday, telling reporters that the US aimed to make Taiwan feel “safe and comfortable” about US support.
But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said any such briefings by the US to Taiwan would violate a US pledge to maintain only unofficial contacts with the island.
“It is outrageous in nature. China is firmly against it,” Zhao told a regular briefing, shortly after the ministry announced that Xi would meet Biden and also attend the G20 meeting and a subsequent APEC summit next week .
Several analysts said both sides could use the talks to seek clarification on the other’s “red lines”, identify areas for cooperation and stabilize relations, but significant progress is unlikely.
“I don’t think we can expect a breakthrough,” Collin Koh, a researcher at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told Reuters.
“They are able to finally meet face to face and convey mutual concerns to each other,” he said.
Biden and Xi last met in person when Biden was vice president during the Obama administration.
“This face-to-face meeting gives the Biden administration the best opportunity to test whether Xi recognizes the importance of stable relations with the United States for China’s own security and economy,” said Susan Shirk, an author and professor at the University of California. San Diego.
Xi’s visit to Southeast Asia will be only his second trip abroad since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When he traveled to Uzbekistan for a meeting of regional leaders in September, he skipped a dinner with 11 other heads of state because of his delegation’s COVID-19 policy.
The G20 summit is on the Indonesian island of Bali, where Xi will also meet with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron before traveling to Thailand for an Asia-Pacific economic cooperation summit, the foreign minister said.
(Editing by Tony Munroe, Himani Sarkar and Raju Gopalakrishnan)