Biden adviser wants Beijing to pressure Iran over Houthi strikes. China threatens US about Taiwan independence

During talks in Thailand, US national security advisor Jake Sullivan urged Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to use China’s influence with Iran to reduce Middle Eastern tensions. The officials also agreed to work on organizing a phone contact between President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

The conversations Friday and Saturday in Bangkok, which followed the presidents’ discussions in California in November, came after a ruling-party candidate opposed by Beijing won Taiwan’s recent presidential election and US and Chinese military officials restarted a previously halted contact. They occurred as attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen continue to endanger global shipping in the Red Sea.

According to a senior US official, Sullivan mentioned China’s significant economic leverage over Iran, as well as the disruptive effect of the Houthi strikes on world commerce.

The official acknowledged that China has openly called for lower tensions, but said it was too early to determine whether Beijing was using diplomatic leverage to pressure Tehran on the issue. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about Sullivan and Wang’s private conversations and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Wang stated that Washington should honor its vow not to back Taiwanese independence.

According to a statement from the ministry, Wang stated that Taiwan’s election, won by current Vice President Lai Ching-te, did not change China’s position that the island is part of China and that the most significant problem in US-China relations is the question of “Taiwan independence.”

Biden has stated that he does not support Taiwanese independence, but US law requires a strong defense for Taiwan and that all threats to the island be treated as matters of “grave concern.”

The US official said it was unclear when the next Biden-Xi talk would take place, but they hoped it would happen in the coming months.

Wang and Sullivan had previously met on the Mediterranean island of Malta and in Vienna last year, before to the Biden-Xi summit in California.

In November, both parties announced modest agreements to battle illegal fentanyl and reopen military connections, which prevented the relationship from deteriorating further. The US-China Counternarcotics Working Group will hold its first meeting on Tuesday. According to American officials, China produces the majority of fentanyl and its precursors.

China considers self-ruled Taiwan to be its own territory, and in recent years has sent military planes and ships to protest political activities there. Earlier Saturday, Taiwan’s defense ministry said China had sent over 30 warplanes and a group of navy ships toward the island in a 24-hour period, including 13 warplanes that crossed the Taiwan Strait’s midline, an unofficial boundary that serves as a buffer between its territory and the mainland.

Wang also stated that China and the United States should use this year’s 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations to reflect on previous experiences and respect each other as equals, rather than adopting a condescending attitude.

According to the statement, Wang stated that the countries should “be committed to mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and win-win cooperation, building a correct way for China and the United States to interact.”

Taiwan has reported that six Chinese balloons sailed above the island or over airspace immediately north of it, days after the self-governing island had its election. Lai’s Democratic Progressive Party campaigned primarily on self-determination, social fairness, and rejection of China’s threats.

Aside from cross-strait concerns, Sullivan and Wang discussed Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Middle East, North Korea, the South China Sea, and Myanmar, according to the White House. Sullivan and Wang discussed the progress made toward a dialogue on artificial intelligence between US and Chinese officials this spring.

Sullivan emphasized that, while Washington and Beijing are competing, both sides must “prevent it from veering into conflict or confrontation,” according to a White House readout of the meeting.


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