U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said he expects President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping to meet “at some point” in spite of recent tensions between the two countries.
Chinese defense minister Li Shangfu denied a request from his U.S. counterpart, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, to hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue, a defense summit in Singapore that both attended. The two exchanged a handshake Friday, but Austin said this was “no substitute for a substantive engagement.”
Sullivan, however, told CNN he met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi over the course of two days “and talked through all of the strategic issues in our relationship.”
“We will, I hope, soon see American officials engaging at senior levels with their Chinese counterparts over the coming months to continue that work,” Sullivan told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview broadcast Sunday.
“At some point, we will see President Biden and President Xi come back together again,” Sullivan added.
The last time the two leaders met in person was in November in Bali, Indonesia.
The U.S. national security adviser added that while the two countries compete on economics and technology, there is no reason for those differences to escalate into a wider confrontation.
“That is the firm conviction of President Biden,” Sullivan said. “That is how he will responsibly manage this relationship. And we believe there is nothing inevitable about some kind of conflict or cold war between the U.S. and China.”
But tensions have been growing.
The U.S. on Monday released video depicting a Chinese navy ship crossing into the path of a U.S. destroyer and performing what America described as “unsafe” maneuvers in the Taiwan Strait over the weekend.
China meanwhile defended its conduct, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin saying “it is the U.S. that should deeply reflect upon itself and correct the wrongdoings.”
Li echoed Wang, calling on the U.S. to mind its “own territorial airspace and waters.”
“The best way is for the countries, especially the naval vessels and fighter jets of countries, not to do closing actions around other countries’ territories,” he told an audience in Singapore, according to The Associated Press. “What’s the point of going there? In China we always say, ‘Mind your own business.’”
This follows an incident last week in which the U.S. said China performed an “unnecessarily aggressive maneuver during the intercept of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 aircraft” over the South China Sea.
Both incidents along with the Chinese spy balloon program, which prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a trip to Beijing earlier this year, as well as former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last summer over China’s objections, have contributed to the souring of relations.
But the Biden administration has emphasized the importance of restoring lines of communication.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a frequent China critic, described those efforts as “pathetic.”
“Biden administration officials should stop chasing after their Chinese communist counterparts like love-struck teenagers,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
The U.S. is also keeping an eye on China’s actions in relation to Russia’s war in Ukraine. During the summit in Singapore, Li met Ukraine’s defense minister and pledged to expand military communications between the two countries, according to Bloomberg. However, China still maintains close ties to Moscow.
“It really is up to China to make its determination as to whether it’s going to lean in here to support that principle of sovereignty and to indicate to Russia that it will stand behind an outcome in which Ukraine gets its sovereignty back,” Sullivan said. “Whether China does that or not is unclear.”
“But we support the [People’s Republic of China] playing a role, a constructive role, in a just peace based on the principles of the U.N. Charter,” he added.