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Biden to speak with Xi Friday in bid to keep pressuring Putin

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the opening of the National People's Congress at The Great Hall Of The People on May 22, 2020 in Beijing, China. (Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images/TNS)

President Joe Biden will speak Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, as the U.S. leader looks to shore up global pressure on Russia to halt its war in Ukraine.

“This is part of our ongoing efforts to maintain open lines of communication,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Thursday. “The two leaders will discuss managing the competition between our two countries as well as Russia’s war against Ukraine and other issues of mutual concern.”

The call is Biden and Xi’s first since November, and follows a meeting in Rome Monday between National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi.

China has aligned its rhetoric with that of Moscow, and Xi and Vladimir Putin declared in the weeks before the invasion that their countries’ friendship had “no limits.” China has also said it wants to avoid being impacted by U.S. sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

The Biden administration has tried to persuade Beijing to use its influence to help end the war, but has generally been reluctant to publicly admonish Beijing for tacit support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Instead, it has said every nation will be judged by history for its role in the war and U.S. officials have warned China both publicly and privately that they’d face serious consequences for helping Russia by softening the blow of sanctions.

Beijing denied any efforts to help Moscow, and Chinese officials said they want to see the conflict end.

China’s foreign ministry on Thursday endorsed remarks by its envoy to Ukraine, in which Beijing delivered some of its most supportive comments yet toward the war-torn country.

Ambassador Fan Xianrong had told Lviv Governor Maksym Kozytskyi during a meeting Monday that China was a “friendly country for the Ukrainian people” and would “never attack Ukraine,” according to a summary posted on the Lviv government’s website. He went on to praise the strength and unity demonstrated by the Ukrainian people, in an apparent reference to their efforts to resist Russia’s ongoing invasion.

Asked about Fan’s comments at a news conference Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: “China surely supports these remarks by our ambassador in Ukraine. China supports all efforts that are conducive to easing the situation and for a political settlement.”

A day earlier, Zhao had said he was “not aware” of the comments, fueling uncertainty about whether Fan was expressing the central government’s position.

The world’s two largest economies also continue sparring over human rights and economic policies. The Biden administration has yet to unveil actions against what it considers China’s harmful non-market practices.

Biden and Xi last spoke in November, during a video conference in which Biden stressed that the two superpowers need to establish guardrails to ensure their competition doesn’t veer into conflict.


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