President Joe Biden will “at some point” meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, as the two countries work to reset normal relations amid what has been an extremely tumultuous and tense year in the 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. And then, at some point, we will see President Biden and President Xi come back together again,” Sullivan told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview on “GPS” that aired Sunday.
“There is nothing inconsistent with, on the one hand, competing vigorously in important domains on economics and technology, and also ensuring that that competition does not veer into conflict or confrontation. That is the firm conviction of President Biden,” Sullivan added.
Sullivan’s remarks come as relations between the world’s two biggest economies remain strained.
China’s defense minister on Sunday accused the United States and its allies of trying to destabilize the Indo-Pacific region – just hours after the US had accused a Chinese warship of cutting in front of an American vessel that was taking part in a joint exercise with the Canadian navy in the Taiwan Strait, forcing the American vessel to slow down to avoid a collision. The incident marked the second time in two weeks that Chinese military personnel have engaged in aggressive maneuvers in the vicinity of US military personnel near China’s border. A Chinese fighter jet conducted an “unnecessarily aggressive maneuver” during an intercept of a US spy plane in international airspace over the South China Sea last week, the US military said Tuesday.
Tensions between Washington and Beijing soared in February after a suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over the continental US and was subsequently shot down by the American military.
The incident prompted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a planned trip to Beijing. While the trip has not yet been rescheduled, the State Department announced Saturday that the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs is traveling to China this week “to discuss key issues in the bilateral relationship.”
China’s foreign minister, Qin Gang said in May that a “series of erroneous words and deeds” by the United States had placed relations between the two superpowers on “cold ice,” but stabilizing ties was a “top priority.”
Amid the US efforts to reengage with China, Sullivan met with top Chinese official Wang Yi in Vienna last month in one of the highest-level engagements between US and Chinese officials since the spy balloon incident.
There is a desire, Sullivan said, to “put a floor under the relationship” in order to more responsibly manage the competition between them.
“There are a number of different elements to that. But one of the key ones is that as we have intense competition, we also have intense diplomacy,” he said.
Biden, as recently as mid-May, projected optimism that he would eventually meet with his Chinese counterpart “whether it’s soon or not.” The two leaders last met in November at the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, for a three-hour conversation that Biden afterward described as “open and candid.”
Meanwhile, Sullivan also told Zakaria that the US believes the highly anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive will result in Kyiv taking back “strategically significant territory.”
“Exactly how much, in what places, that will be up to developments on the ground as the Ukrainians get this counteroffensive underway,” Sullivan said. “But we believe that the Ukrainians will meet with success in this counteroffensive.”
Asked if this meant he expected some form of negotiations by the end of this year, Sullivan wouldn’t provide any sort of timetable but said that developments on the battlefield will have a “major impact” on any future negotiation.
“But what I will say is this: President Zelensky himself has said that this war will end ultimately through diplomacy,” Sullivan said.
The Ukrainian military has been spotted moving military hardware toward the front lines of its conflict with Russia and carrying out attacks against Russian targets that could facilitate an offensive, including recent strikes in the Russian-occupied southern port city of Berdiansk.
A senior US official confirmed to CNN in May that Ukraine had begun conducting “shaping” operations in advance of a counteroffensive against Russian forces. Shaping involves striking targets such as weapons depots, command centers and armor and artillery systems to prepare the battlefield for advancing forces.
CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez and Sydney Kashiwagi contributed to this report.