U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (left) watches as Chinese President Xi Jinping (center) arrives at San Francisco International Airport to mark Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Week on November 14, 2023 ) in San Francisco, California.

Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Monday that U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping remain far apart over the status of Taiwan after their high-profile meeting last week during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference in San Francisco.

“President Xi has expressed the view that it is important for Taiwan and mainland China to unite. “He has certainly expressed a desire for this to be done through peaceful means,” Yellen said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “But President Biden said our policy remains unchanged toward Taiwan.”

The United States recognizes the People’s Republic of China as the sole government of China, but also maintains that Taiwan is a self-governing territory, despite China’s claims to the contrary.

Even after their talks last week, Biden and Xi’s deadlock on the issue could have military implications, although Xi insists he does not want a military conflict.

Taiwanese officials have already reported escalating Chinese military actions around the island in recent months. In September, Taiwan’s defense minister said China was operating dozens of warships, drones, bombers and more nearby. Officials fear that China’s military activities around Taiwan could lead to accidental confrontation and lead to a full-scale conflict.

US military officials have warned that China could be ready to launch an attack on Taiwan by 2027. They have criticized the US for not providing enough military support to Taiwan to deter China.

“Deterring a Chinese invasion of Taiwan requires turning the island into a porcupine, equipped with an arsenal of weapons that can attack the Chinese fleet,” U.S. officials wrote in a letter to the U.S. Secretary of the Navy in October. “Bureaucratic delays within the Navy…undermine efforts to prevent war.”

Biden has proposed a $105 billion aid package, mostly for Ukraine and Israel, which are fighting their respective wars, including just $2 billion for Taiwan and broader security measures in the Indo-Pacific.

Yellen said Monday that the package was “critical to America’s national security.”

But any amount of U.S. support for Taiwan’s independence puts relations on shaky ground with China, which believes it has the right to rule Taiwan.

When former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August 2022 to show her support for the country’s sovereignty, China suspended military communications with the US. Without this open communication, several close encounters occurred between the U.S. and Chinese naval and air forces.

At their meeting last week, Biden and Xi agreed to revive military communications, although they still disagree on the status of Taiwan.

“We stick to the agreement that there is a one-China policy and I will not change that, that will not change. That’s about the extent we’ve been talking about,” Biden said at a news conference last week, hours after he met with Xi.

The first meeting between Biden and Xi in a year took place last Wednesday. It was an important step toward restoring at least some semblance of cooperation between the two countries after a tumultuous year of spy ballooning, trade disputes and near-miss military incidents that marred communications between the U.S. and China.

In addition to the Taiwan issue, Yellen said the two leaders also discussed cooperation on fentanyl regulation, artificial intelligence, climate change and bilateral economic relations.

The week before APEC, Yellen met with her Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier He Lifeng, where they discussed some of the same issues at length. Yellen said she plans to visit China next year.

Source : www.cnbc.com

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