President Joe Biden plans to hold a phone call with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, once the legislature concludes its annual gathering and the government in Beijing returns to work, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said.
“We have said that when the National People’s Congress comes to a close, as it now has, Chinese leadership returns to Beijing, and then all of these new officials take their new seats, because of course you now have a new set of figures in substantial leadership positions, we would expect President Biden and President Xi to have a conversation,” Sullivan told reporters Monday on Air Force One en route to San Diego.
Biden answered “yes” to a shouted question from a reporter Monday about whether he would speak with Xi soon.
Sullivan wouldn’t say whether the Chinese have agreed to hold a call on that timeline.
“I can’t put a date or time on it but in the period that follows the People’s Congress, a Biden-Xi telephone communication — we think there’s merit in seeing that happen,” Sullivan said last week.
The National People’s Congress, the annual parliamentary gathering, ended on Monday. New Premier Li Qiang struck a conciliatory tone on ties with the US, suggesting a fresh openness by Beijing to resume talks.
“I want to stress that it is important for us to translate the important consensus reached between President Xi Jinping and President Biden during the meeting last November into actual policies and concrete actions,” Li said Monday.
The US-China relationship hit another low point this year after the Biden administration shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon that traversed the US and after US officials said Beijing was considering providing lethal aid to Moscow for its war in Ukraine.
Biden and Xi last spoke in November at the Group of 20 leaders meeting in Bali, Indonesia. Both men signaled a thawing of relations following that meeting.
Sullivan told reporters in a briefing last week that the goal is to ensure “there are as many formats as possible” on all levels for the two countries to communicate regularly.
“We would encourage the PRC to be open to ensuring that we have regularized, organized patterns of communication, consultations for us to be able to talk in strategic terms about these matters,” he said in the briefing.
China broke off military-to-military communication after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last August.
“We have been seeking to establish regular, non interruptible mil-mil channels, which we think are essential to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific. And China has been at points, including at this point, unreceptive to that. I think that is not a wise posture,” Sullivan said last week.
Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unveiled a submarine deal Monday, part of an effort to counter China in the Indo-Pacific.
Sullivan said the Biden administration had briefed Beijing on its Aukus partnership and has also sought information and clarity on Beijing’s intentions and capabilities with respect to its “considerable military buildup.”
The spy balloon episode led Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a planned trip to China in February. Sullivan said last week that Blinken is prepared to go when he can have a productive trip but that it “depends on Beijing and their attitude.”
“From a US perspective, we are not trying to withhold senior level communication. Quite the contrary,” he said when asked if progress was being made for a future Blinken trip.