Sign up for the daily Inside Washington email for exclusive US coverage and analysis sent to your inbox
Get our free Inside Washington email
China doesn’t have immediate plans of military action against Taiwan in the coming years, a US official told reporters of remarks by Chinese president Xi Jinping to Joe Biden on Wednesday during a meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in California.
Elsewhere during their discussion, President Xi reportedly said he hoped China could peacefully reunify with Taiwan, while outlining conditions where force might be used and arguing that the fate of the island was the biggest threat to US-China relations.
Mr Biden responded, according to a senior Biden administration official, that the US was committed to maintaining peace and stability in the region, which the president argued would be achieved by maintaining the status quo and having China respect Taiwan’s elections.
For decades, the US has maintained a delicate so-called “One China” policy with regards to Taiwan, recognising the People’s Republic of China as the sole, legitimate government of China, while acknowledging but not necessarily accepting Beijing’s position that the nation of China includes Taiwan, and maintaining an unofficial US relationship with the disputed island territory.
“I reiterated what I’ve said since I’ve become president and what every previous president of late has said: we maintain an agreement that there is a One China policy,” Mr Biden told reporters on Wednesday after the meeting. “I’m not going to change that. That’s not going to change.”
He added that he told the Chinese leader the US expected Beijng wouldn’t commit “any interference at all” in Taiwanese elections, and described the US-China relatioship as “trust but verify.”
The US and China also made other news during the summit, with an initiative for the countries to work together to crack down on illegal production of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.
The agreement will see China go after companies producing chemical components used in fentanyl and machinery used to manufacture fake prescription pills cut with the opioid.
A Biden official told the AP that the initiative will set back Latin American drug dealers “for a time.”
In 2022, 68 per cent of the reported 107,081 drug overdose deaths in the US came from synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Perhaps the most major development of all, however, was at the diplomatic level.
The two nations agreed to resume communications between their respective defence departments, after those contacts were paused following then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August 2022 visit to Taiwan.
“The president underscored to us over the last several months that it was essential that we re-instate mil-to-mil talks to several levels. Today the Chinese have agreed to do three things that we thought are significant and that would at least create mechanisms to address either miscalculations, inadvertence, and also create forums for the two sides to be able to present concerns to the other,” a White House official told reporters.
That would include Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin holding direct talks with his Chinese counterpart, who has yet to be named by Mr Xi, and other engagements involving senior commanders on both sides.
The APEC conversation marks President Xi’s first US trip since his 2017 visit with then-president Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Since then, relations have frayed, including after a suspected Chinese spy balloon flew across the continental US in February. President Biden eventually ordered the craft be shot down.
Andrew Feinberg at the APEC summit and Graeme Massie contributed reporting to this article.