President Biden looks to ease tensions with Xi over Taiwan The divisions over Taiwan come amid several challenges between the two superpowers: the Russian invasion of Ukraine, U.S. tariffs and Chinese aggression in the Pacific.

Biden and China's Xi discuss tensions over Taiwan

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JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

President Joe Biden spoke to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for more than 2 hours today. Attention on that call grew in recent days as the Chinese government expressed concerns about a possible trip to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And this all comes at a time when there are deep divisions between the two superpowers, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, U.S. tariffs and Chinese aggression in the Pacific. Here to discuss it all with us is White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Hey, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hey, Juana.

SUMMERS: Franco, this was their fifth call since President Biden took office. What more can you tell us about it?

ORDOÑEZ: You know, both sides said the conversation was candid, and they went into a lot of issues. They discussed areas where they feel they could work together, including on the climate, health care and counter-narcotics. They discussed U.S. tariffs against China. They discussed Ukraine and the global impacts the war is having. A senior administration official also told us reporters that there was an in-depth discussion on Taiwan, describing it as direct and honest, and said the leaders acknowledged the fact that the U.S. and China have differences when it comes to China - Taiwan.

SUMMERS: Yeah, let's talk about that. What is the sensitivity about Taiwan, Franco?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, Beijing considers the island a part of China and has threatened to forcibly take control of the island in a move the West opposes. Now, U.S. policy maintains diplomatic relations with China rather than Taiwan. At the same time, the United States also has an unofficial relationship with Taiwan, and it's a robust relationship. I mean, Biden has said multiple times that the U.S. would protect Taiwan if China attacked. And those kind of comments had to be quickly walked back, with administration officials insisting there is no policy change. You know, it's all very sensitive. In the Chinese readout, the Chinese government warned that those who play with fire will perish by it. And this possible trip by Pelosi is a big concern for them.

SUMMERS: What does the administration say then about that possible trip? I don't think it's been confirmed yet.

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. The administration has repeatedly declined to say anything about the rumored visit, except to note that nothing has been announced and that Congress is a separate, co-equal branch of government. So the House speaker makes her own travel decisions. But last week, Biden told reporters that the U.S. military was against the idea of Pelosi traveling to Taiwan. And Biden does need to be careful, though, making comments like that because, you know, we're right close to the midterm election, and politicians on both sides of the aisle have spoken out about not allowing China to dictate a U.S. leader's travel.

And, Juana, if I could just make one more note, you know, just looking forward, senior administration officials said the two leaders agreed that a face-to-face meeting would be beneficial and instructed their teams to search out a good time for them to meet.

SUMMERS: NPR's Franco Ordoñez, thank you.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you.

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