White House says Biden, Xi expected to meet virtually

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, left, and his delegation leave a hotel in Zurich, Switzerland, Switzerland where a meeting between US and Chinese officials was taking place on Wednesday Oct. 6, 2021. Top diplomatic advisers to U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping have been holding several hours of talks in Switzerland’s largest city in hopes of ironing out differences on a range of topics from trade to Taiwan. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and senior Chinese foreign policy adviser were holding extended meetings a hotel near Zurich’s airport. (Michael Buholzer/Keystone via AP)

ZURICH (AP) — President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are expected to hold a virtual working meeting before year’s end, according to a senior Biden administration official.

The agreement for a more formal leaders’ meeting came as White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi met Wednesday in Zurich for six hours of talks amid rising tensions between the global powers.

Details for the meeting still need to be worked out, according to the senior administration official, who was not authorized to comment publicly on the private talks between Sullivan and Yang.

Xi has not left China amid the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic and is not expected to attend upcoming Group of 20 and COP26 summits in Europe in person.

The official said the idea of a virtual meeting was proposed after Biden — who spent a substantial amount of time with Xi when the two were vice presidents — mentioned to the Chinese president last month during a phone call that he would like to be able to see him again.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

Top diplomatic advisers to President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met for talks Wednesday in Switzerland as the United States looks to improve communication at a time of rising tensions between the global powers.

The White House said Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, stressed to senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi the need to maintain open lines of communication, while raising concerns about China's recent military provocations against Taiwan, human rights abuses against ethnic minorities and Beijing's efforts to squelch pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong.

Sullivan made clear during six-hour of talks that while the United States would “continue to invest in our own national strength," it sought better engagement at a senior level “to ensure responsible competition," according to a White House statement after the meeting ended.

The two advisers agreed to work to meet for an in-person

The White House said the meeting was intended to serve a follow-up to last month's call between Biden and Xi in which Biden stressed the need to set clear parameters in their competition.

But in the latest sign of the stress, the Chinese military has been flying dozens of sorties near the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday reiterated concerns that Beijing was undermining regional peace and stability with its “provocative” action. China sent a record 56 fighter planes toward Taiwan on Monday alone.

“We strongly urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic and economic pressure and coercion directed at Taiwan,” said Blinken, who was in Paris for talks with French officials.

At the start of Biden's presidency, he pledged to press Beijing on its human rights record. His administration has affirmed the U.S. position, first made late in the Trump administration, that China's repression of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in its northwest Xinjiang region was “genocide.”

In March, the United States, in coordination with the European Union, United Kingdom and Canada, imposed sanctions on top communist party officials for their roles in detaining and abusing Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities. At June’s Group of Seven summit in England, Biden successfully pressed fellow leaders to include specific language criticizing China’s use of forced labor and other human rights abuses in the leaders' joint statement.

Human rights advocates and Republican lawmakers in the U.S. have raised concerns that the administration might be easing pressure on human rights as it looks for cooperation from Beijing on the global effort on climate change and in thwarting North Korea's nuclear program.

The White House said last week it did not have a position on the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which was passed by the U.S. Senate in July.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican and sponsor of the legislation, wrote in the Washington Examiner on Wednesday that “the Biden administration is choosing to ignore the Chinese Communist Party’s egregious human rights abuses to strike a deal on climate.”

The U.S. also signaled this week that for the time being it plans to stick with tariffs levied against China during the Trump administration.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, in a speech in Washington this week, said she would begin engaging her Chinese counterparts to discuss Beijing's failure to meet commitments made in the first phase of a U.S.-China trade agreement signed in January 2020. Biden has criticized Beijing for “coercive” trade practices, including its use of forced labor, that has led to an unfair playing field.

"We will use the full range of tools we have and develop new tools as needed to defend American economic interests from harmful policies and practices,” Tai said.

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Madhani reported from Washington. AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee in Paris contributed to this report.

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