Woodside (California), Nov 16 (PTI) US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have agreed to resume high-level military communication, counter-narcotics cooperation and discussion on artificial intelligence as they met for four hours in a bid to establish a working relationship following a period of strained ties.
The two leaders met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco.
The in-person meeting, the first time in more than a year, was held at the picturesque Filoli Estate, about 40 km south of San Francisco.
"We're back to direct, open, clear communications," Biden said following the meeting.
The United States and China have made important progress in their bilateral ties, he said.
“These are tangible steps in the right direction to determine what's useful and what's not useful, what's dangerous and what's acceptable. Moreover, there is evidence of cases that I've made all along. The United States will continue to compete vigorously with the People's Republic of China, but we'll manage that competition responsibly, so it doesn't veer into conflict or accidental conflict,” Biden told reporters here at a news conference.
Biden said a lack of communication was "how accidents happen" and added that both presidents could now "pick up the phone and be directly heard immediately".
China severed military-to-military communications last year after then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. Beijing views self-ruled Taiwan as its territory and has threatened to annex it by force if necessary.
Biden said that, while many disagreements remained between them, Xi had "just been straight". He said the talks were "some of the most constructive and productive discussions we've had".
The two sides also announced several other agreements in areas that have become sources of tension in recent times.
These included taking steps to tackle the flow of fentanyl into the US, which has contributed to a rise in overdose deaths in the country.
Chinese manufacturing companies are a source not only of the synthetic opioid itself but of precursor chemicals which can be combined to make it.
"We're taking action to significantly reduce the flow of precursor chemicals and pill presses from China to the Western Hemisphere," Biden said.
Under the deal, China will directly target companies that are producing those precursor chemicals. "It will save lives," Biden told reporters.
The two nations also agreed to jointly examine artificial intelligence (AI).
“Where it's possible, where our interests coincide, we're going to work together like we did on fentanyl. That's what the world expects of us. The rest of the world expects, not just from the people in China and the United States, but the rest of the world expects that of us and that's what the United States is going to be doing,” he said.
“Today, President Xi and I also exchanged views on a range of regional and global issues, including Russia's refusal and brutal war to stop the war and brutal war of aggression against Ukraine and the conflict in Gaza. And as always do, I raised areas where the United States has concerns about the PRC's actions, including detained and exit-banned US citizens, human rights and coercive activities in the South China Sea. We discussed all three of those things,” Biden said.
“I gave them names of individuals that we think are being held and hopefully we can get them released as well, no agreement on that, no agreement on that. I also stressed the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits. It's clear that we object to Beijing's non-market economic practices that disadvantage American businesses and workers and that we'll continue to address them, and I named what I thought a number of those were,” he said.
Biden welcomed the positive steps they have taken today and said it is important for the world to see that they are implementing the approach in the best traditions of American diplomacy.
“We're talking to our competitors and just talking, just being blunt with one another, so there's no misunderstanding as a key element to maintaining global stability and delivering for the American people,” he said.
“In the months ahead, we're going to continue to preserve and pursue high-level diplomacy with the PRC in both directions, to keep the lines of communication open, including between President Xi and me. He and I agreed that each one of us could pick up the phone, call directly and we'd be heard immediately,” Biden said.
Biden told reporters that after many years of being on hold, the US and China are restarting cooperation on counter-narcotics.
“In 2019, you may remember China took action to greatly reduce the amount of fentanyl shipped directly from China to the United States. But in the years since that time, the challenge has evolved from finished fentanyl to fentanyl chemical ingredients and pill presses, which are being shipped without control,” he said.
“I appreciate President Xi's commitment on this issue. President Xi and I tasked our teams to maintain a policy and law enforcement coordination going forward to make sure it works. I also want to thank the bipartisan Congressional delegation to China, led by Leader Schumer in October, for supporting this effort so strongly,” he added.
“Secondly, and this is critically important, we're resuming military-to-military contact, direct contacts. As a lot of you press know, follow this, that's been cut off and it's been worrisome," Biden said.
“Vital miscalculations on either side can cause real trouble with a country like China or any other major country, and so I think we made real progress there as well.
"And thirdly, we're going to get our experts together to discuss risk and safety issues associated with Artificial intelligence. As many of you who travel with me around the world almost everywhere I go, every major leader wants to talk about the impact of Artificial Intelligence,” said the president.
Biden said in his welcome remarks that the two nations have to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict and they also have to manage it responsibly.
"That's what the United States wants and what we intend to do. I also believe it's what the world wants from both of us, candid exchange,” he said.
“We also have a responsibility to our people and the world to work together when we see it in our interest to do so. The critical global challenges we face from climate change to narcotics, and artificial intelligence demand our joint efforts,” he said.
The Chinese president, in his remarks, said, “It is unrealistic for one side to remodel the other. Conflicts and confrontations have unbearable consequences for both sides. I'm still of the view that major country competition is not the prevailing trend of current times and cannot solve the problems facing China and the United States.”
Biden said since their last meeting in Bali, on the sidelines of the G 20, the key members of the two governments have had important discussions on issues matters to both the nations and to the world.
“But as always, there's no substitute for face-to-face discussions. I've always found our discussions straightforward and frank, and I've always appreciated them,” Biden said. Observing that he has known Xi for a long time, Biden said they haven't always agreed, which was not surprising to anyone.
“But our meetings have always been candid, straightforward, and useful. I've never doubted what you've told me in terms of your candid nature in what you speak. I value our conversation because I think it's paramount that you and I understand each other clearly, leader to leader with no misconceptions or miscommunication,” said the US president.