World China's Xi Jinping warns Biden not to 'play with...

China’s Xi Jinping warns Biden not to ‘play with fire’ over Taiwan

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Chinese President Xi Jinping warned U.S. President Joe Biden not to “play with fire” over Taiwan, Beijing said on Friday. File Photo by Roman Pilipey/EPA-EFE

July 29 (BP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping warned U.S. President Joe Biden against interfering in Taiwan in a lengthy call that took place amid soaring tensions over a possible trip to the self-governing island by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“The position of the Chinese government and people on the Taiwan question is consistent, and resolutely safeguarding China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity is the firm will of the more than 1.4 billion Chinese people,” Xi said, according to Beijing’s readout of the call.

“Those who play with fire will perish by it,” Xi said. “It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this.”

Pelosi has not confirmed a trip to Taiwan, which China views as a breakaway province that it has vowed to retake by force if necessary. She would be the first House speaker to visit since Republican Newt Gingrich met then-President Lee Teng-hui in 1997.

The California Democrat had reportedly planned to make a stop in Taipei in April during a scheduled Asia tour, but the trip was canceled after she tested positive for COVID-19.

There was no indication that Xi mentioned Pelosi directly in his call, but Beijing has issued several angry warnings against a possible visit since it was first reported by the Financial Times last week.

China’s military said Tuesday it would not “sit idly by” and told the United States to take “concrete actions” to prevent a trip by Pelosi.

Washington’s concerns over Beijing’s plans for the democratic island of 23 million have grown in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is now in its sixth month. China has ratcheted up military provocations against Taiwan over the past several months, with frequent incursions into the island’s Air Defense Identification Zone.

According to a brief White House readout of the call, Biden “underscored that the United States policy has not changed” on Taiwan.

“The United States strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” Biden said.

In a background briefing, a senior White House official said that the leaders also discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and areas of cooperation including climate change and health security in the call, which lasted for more than two hours.

Xi and Biden agreed to begin arrangements for a face-to-face summit, the official said, which would be their first.

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