G20: Biden and Xi warn against nuclear weapon use amid rising Ukraine tensions

The leaders also discuss a range of disagreements between China and the US in their first in-person presidential talks ahead of the G20 summit in Indonesia

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US President Joe Biden met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Monday, discussing the intense rivalry between the two superpowers, which has encompassed everything from growing nuclear arsenals to trade wars over technology and a naval buildup by both sides in the Pacific.

The leaders met face to face a day before the opening of the G20 conference in the Indonesian resort of Bali, where they shook hands and sat across from each other at the luxury Mulia Resort along Nusa Dua's Bay in the southern part of the island.

In a meeting that lasted three hours, Mr Xi said as leaders of two major countries, they need to chart the right course and direction for bilateral ties and elevate their relationship.

He told Mr Biden the world was "big enough" for both nations to prosper.

Mr Biden said the two nations share the responsibility to show the world that they can "manage our differences, prevent competition from becoming conflict".

After Monday's meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to China, the White House said.

Talks will also resume on matters including climate change, economic stability and debt relief, as well as health and food security, according to the statement.

In a press conference following the bilateral meeting, Mr Biden said he wants to ensure there are no misunderstandings with China.

While he wouldn't be able to work everything out, there was "no need for concern for a new cold war," he said.

Mr Xi also said his country is "deeply concerned" about the situation in Ukraine, Beijing's foreign ministry said.

This was the first in-person talk between the heads of the world’s biggest economies since Mr Biden took office.

"There’s little substitute for face-to-face discussions," Mr Biden said.

Still, Mr Biden raised concerns about matters in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, and more broadly on China's human rights.

He told Mr Xi the US remains committed to its One-China policy, while raising objections to China's increasingly aggressive actions towards Taiwan.

Mr Xi said the the Taiwan question is the first red line that must not be crossed in US-China relations.

Indeed, both leaders appeared to have been emboldened by their recent wins at home.

While Mr Xi had recently secured a third term that firmly entrenched him as China’s most powerful recent leader, Mr Biden had been lifted by his party’s results in the US midterms.

The pair had last met in 2017, when Mr Biden was vice president.

No nuclear weapons

Both on Monday agreed that nuclear weapons should never be used, including in Ukraine, the White House said.

Ahead of the meeting, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said it expected the meeting to bring relations back on track.

Relations between the two sides have been fraught with tension over issues ranging from Hong Kong and Taiwan to the South China Sea, trade practices and US restrictions on Chinese technology.

Still, there have been efforts by both Beijing and Washington to mend differences.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in Bali earlier the Biden-Xi meeting was aimed at stabilising the relationship and create an air of certainty for US businesses.

Mild hiccup

Pre-summit proceedings suffered a mild hiccup earlier in the evening following an AP report that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had been taken to hospital. Mr Lavrov, though, said he was in his hotel and preparing for the G20 summit, Russian state-owned TASS reported.

Mr Lavrov, 72, is Russia's longest-serving foreign minister, having held the post since 2004.

British PM Rishi Sunak arrives for the G20 meeting on November 14 in Nusa Dua, Indonesia. Getty Images

Besides Mr Lavrov, who was sent as his replacement by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a string of world leaders including British PM Rishi Sunak, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Australia's Anthony Albanese arrived on Monday for the summit.

Mr Sunak's office said he would condemn Russia's action in Ukraine at the talks, urge a deal with Moscow allowing the extension of safe passage of grain shipments from its neighbour, and call for commitment never to weaponise food production and distribution.

Mr Sunak will also hold bilateral meetings with Mr Biden, Mr Kishida, Mr Albanese and Indian PM Narendra Modi, whose country will host the G20 next year.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, addressing the media in Bali on Monday, said the grain deal is crucial for the world's food security.

"We need urgent action to prevent famine and hunger in a growing number of places around the world," he said. "The Black Sea Grain Initiative, and efforts to ensure Russian food and fertilisers can flow to global markets, are essential to global food security."

Updated: November 14, 2022, 4:25 PM
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