Chinese leader Xi Jinping warned against playing with fire over Taiwan in a call with U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday, highlighting Beijing’s concerns about a possible visit to the Chinese-claimed island by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“Those who play with fire will perish by it,” China’s foreign ministry quoted Xi as telling Biden in their fifth call as leaders. “It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this.”
Xi said Washington should abide by the “one-China principle” and stressed that China firmly opposes Taiwanese independence and outside interference.
Biden told Xi U.S. policy on Taiwan had not changed and that Washington strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, the White House said.
Following the call, Taiwan thanked Biden for his support and said it would continue to deepen its security partnership with the United States, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.
The White House said the long-scheduled call was part of the administration’s efforts to deepen lines of communication with China and “responsibly manage our differences.”
It has been particularly anxious to lower the temperature on Taiwan.
A visit by the House speaker would be a dramatic, though not unprecedented, show of U.S. support for the island, and some analysts worry such a move at a time of fraught U.S. ties with Beijing could spur a major crisis and even unintended clashes.
Scott Kennedy, a China analyst at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said leader-level contacts were essential to preventing this.
“One hopes they’ve done enough to avoid a collision in the near term, but it’s clear there needs to be much more frequent and in-depth communication,” he said.
A senior U.S. official said Biden and Xi had discussed the possibility of holding a first face-to-face meeting as leaders and directed their teams to look into this.