US President Joe Biden on Tuesday denied a media report that his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping had turned down Biden’s offer for a one-on-one meeting last week.
The Financial Times cited several people on a 90-minute call between the two leaders last week as saying that Xi did not take Biden up on the offer and instead insisted that Washington adopt a less harsh tone toward Beijing.
“That’s not true,” Biden said when asked by reporters if he was disappointed that Xi didn’t want to meet him.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said in a statement earlier on Tuesday that the report was “not an accurate depiction of the call. Duration.”
One of the sources informed about the call confirmed that the report was accurate.
“Xi clearly communicated that the tone and atmosphere of the relationship needs to improve first,” the source told Reuters.
China’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond when asked for comment.
The Financial Times quoted a source as saying that Biden had started the summit as one of several possibilities for a follow-on engagement with Xi, and that he did not expect an immediate response.
It cited a US official as saying that while Xi was not involved with the idea of the summit, the White House believed it was partly due to concerns about COVID-19.
The G20 summit in Italy in October has been talked about as a possible site for a one-on-one meeting, but Xi has not left China since the pandemic broke out early last year.
In his statement, Sullivan said: “As we have said, the presidents discussed the importance of being able to have private discussions between the two leaders, and we are going to respect that.”
Biden and Xi met for the first time in seven months and they discussed the need to ensure that competition between the world’s two largest economies does not turn into conflict.
A US official briefing ahead of the talks called it a test of whether direct top-level engagement could end what had become a stalemate in ties, which are at their worst in decades.
The White House later said it was intended to keep channels of communication open, but has announced no plans for a follow-on engagement.
Chinese state media said Xi had told Biden that US policy on China had put “serious difficulties” on relations, but added that the two sides should maintain constant contact and ask work-level teams to increase communication. But agreed.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NB staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)