Joe Biden has said he expects to see a “thaw” in US relations with Beijing, even as he concluded a G7 summit in Japan that made a concerted effort to counter military and economic security threats from China.
The US president said in a news conference at the end of the three-day summit that talks between the two countries had shut down after a “silly balloon” carrying spying equipment flew over North America in February, before being shot down by the US military.
“Everything changed in terms of talking to one another. I think you’re gonna see that begin to thaw very shortly,” Biden said.
Biden added that his administration was considering lifting sanctions against Chinese defence minister Li Shangfu. Beijing recently refused to agree to a meeting with US defence secretary Lloyd Austin when the pair attend the Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore next month due to the sanctions.
US officials had previously said privately that the administration would not remove the sanctions, which were imposed on Li in connection with China importing fighter jets and missiles from Russia.
Joe Biden in a speech to the G7 Summit said that he expects to see a “thaw” in relations between the US and China “very shortly”
Joe Biden in a speech to the G7 Summit said that he expects to see a “thaw” in relations between the US and China “very shortly”© Reuters
Biden reiterated at the news conference that the US stood by the “one China” policy, which recognises Beijing as the sole government of China, and Washington did not support any move by Taiwan to declare independence.
However, he added: “In the meantime, we’re going to continue to put Taiwan in a position that they can defend themselves. And there is clear understanding among most of our allies that, in fact, if China were to act unilaterally, there would be a response.”
Biden did not confirm if he was referring to a military response. However, he has said on four previous occasions that he would order the US military to intervene if China took unprovoked military action against Taiwan.
The White House did not respond to a request to clarify what kind of response Biden envisaged.
The US president’s comments come one day after the G7 members — the US, UK, Canada, Japan, Germany, France and Italy — issued a communique rebuking Beijing over a number of issues, including its military activities in the East and South China seas and its human rights record in Tibet and Xinjiang. The advanced economies also called for peace across the Taiwan Strait.
In a remark that is likely to spark anger in Beijing, Biden at one point referred to Taiwan as a “country”, which contravenes US policy. In response to a question where he discussed the “one China” policy, Biden said “neither country” before later correcting himself and saying “neither territory”.
China claims sovereignty over Taiwan and is very sensitive to any comments, particularly from the US, that appear to contradict this.
On the sidelines of the G7, Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese convened a meeting of the Quad — the US, Japan, Australia and India — after Biden was forced to cancel a trip to Sydney for a standalone meeting with the group’s leaders.
The four countries said in a joint statement that they “strongly oppose destabilizing or unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo by force or coercion” in the Indo-Pacific. While China was not specifically mentioned, the statement pointed towards Chinese activity in the region.
Separately on Sunday, US secretary of state Antony Blinken signed a security agreement with Papua New Guinea. It is the latest effort by Washington to boost ties with Pacific Islands nations after China shocked the US and its allies last year by signing a security pact with the Solomon Islands.