Ahead of a Tense G20 Summit, Biden and Xi to Meet for Talks
By Fransiska Nangoy and Nandita Bose
NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) – Chinese leader Xi Jinping will arrive on the Indonesian island of Bali on Monday for a long-awaited meeting with US President Joe Biden, ahead of a Group of 20 (G20) summit set to be fraught with tension over Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The two leaders are expected to discuss Taiwan, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, many of the same issues that loom over the G20 that opens on Tuesday without Russian President Vladimir Putin in attendance.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will represent the Russian president at the G20 summit – the first since Russia invaded Ukraine in February – after the Kremlin said Putin was too busy to attend.
On the eve of his meeting with Xi, Biden told Asian leaders in Cambodia that US communication lines with China would stay open to prevent conflict, with tough talks almost certain in the days ahead.
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The United States would “compete vigorously” with Beijing while “ensuring competition does not veer into conflict”, said Biden, stressing the importance of peace in the Taiwan Strait during an address to the East Asia Summit in Cambodia. He arrived in Bali on Sunday night.
Relations between the superpowers have sunk to their lowest in decades, marred by growing tensions in recent years over a host of issues ranging from Hong Kong and Taiwan to the South China Sea, coercive trade practices and US restrictions on Chinese technology.
Tensions rose further after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August trip to Taiwan, the self-governing democratic island that Beijing claims as its territory. The visit enraged China, which subsequently launched military drills near Taiwan.
Biden said in September US forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, his most explicit statement on the issue yet, drawing another angry response from Beijing.
Biden and Xi, who have held five phone or video calls since Biden became president in January 2021, last met in person during the Obama administration when Biden was vice president.
Monday’s meeting is unlikely to produce a joint statement, the White House has said, but it could help stabilize the relationship.
Both the leaders will attend the opening of the G20 summit in Bali on Tuesday.
Lavrov said on Sunday the West was “militarising” Southeast Asia in a bid to contain Russian and Chinese interests, setting the stage for further confrontation with Western leaders at the G20.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to meet Lavrov at the summit, a Downing Street spokesperson said in a statement. He is also likely to hold a bilateral meeting with Biden.
The G20 bloc, which includes a broad array of countries ranging from Brazil to India and Germany, accounts for more than 80% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 60% of its population.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is due to join Indonesian President Joko Widodo to address a parallel B20 business forum taking place on Monday ahead of the G20 summit. Billionaire Elon Musk is expected to join one of the sessions virtually.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Fransiska Nangoy in Nusa Dua; Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Ed Davies and Raju Gopalakrishnan)
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