China’s President Xi Jinping on Thursday warned his US counterpart Joe Biden “not to play with fire” over Taiwan during a “candid” telephone conversation.
“Those who play with fire will perish by it,” Xi said, according to a statement posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website.
“It is hoped that the US will be clear-eyed about this. The US should honor the one-China principle (which recognizes Beijing as the sole government of China),” Xi said, adding that “public opinion cannot be defied.”
Beijing considers Taiwan as its “breakaway province” while Taipei has maintained its independence since 1949.
Xi said the “historical ins and outs of the Taiwan question are crystal clear, and so are the fact and status quo that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one and the same China.”
“China firmly opposes separatist moves toward ‘Taiwan independence’ and interference by external forces, and never allows any room for ‘Taiwan independence’ forces in whatever form,” the Chinese president said.
Beijing is angered by a prospective visit to Taiwan by Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, which is being billed as show of support for Taipei.
In a briefing earlier on Thursday, Zhao Lijian, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, repeated Beijing’s “firm opposition” to the potential visit.
Asked about the Chinese readout of the bilateral conversation, a senior Biden administration official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said Xi “used similar language” in prior discussions, “but I’m not going to get into parsing the various metaphors that the PRC (China) regularly tends to use on these issues.”
“The two leaders basically discussed the fact that the United States and China have differences when it comes to Taiwan, but that they have managed those for over 40 years, and that keeping an open line of communication on this issue is essential,” the official said, further characterizing the wider discussion as “direct” and “honest.”
The US formally recognized China in 1979 and shifted diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing, including Taiwan as part of mainland China under Washington’s One China policy.
Besides Taiwan, the White House said the US and Chinese leaders discussed “a range of issues” and directed their respective teams to follow up “on today’s conversation, in particular to address climate change and health security.”