By Steve Holland and Trevor Hunnicutt
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House is working to arrange a face-to-face meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping next month in San Francisco, U.S. officials say, but they warn that plans are still uncertain.
The Biden team has been working for months to try to get the two leaders together as a centerpiece event during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to be held in San Francisco from Nov. 11 to 17.
But U.S. officials cautioned that the time and location of a meeting and items for discussion have not been nailed down. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that plans for the San Francisco summit were “pretty firm.”
WHAT’S AT STAKE:
U.S. officials see a meeting as essential to help cool a relationship that has grown testy in recent years, with tensions rising over Taiwan and a Chinese military buildup in the South China Sea.
The Chinese cut off cross-military communications used to de-escalate conflict between the two countries after those ties were cut following an August 2022 visit by former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan that enraged China.
Relations further downward spiraled early this year when a Chinese balloon – which U.S. officials called a sophisticated surveillance balloon – flew over the United States and was ultimately shot down by a U.S. fighter jet.
Biden and Xi last met in 2022 on the sidelines of a G20 summit on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Biden climate envoy John Kerry have traveled to China this year seeking to thaw relations and ensure continued communication.
The potential for a Biden-Xi summit was among the topics of discussions when White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan met in Malta last month with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
(Reporting by Steve Holland and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Heather Timmons and Josie Kao)