WASHINGTON: The United States and China agreed on Friday to work towards setting up a meeting between the two countries’ leaders next month, American officials said after President Joe Biden met Beijing’s top diplomat at the White House. Biden has invited Xi Jinping to San Francisco in November for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, amid tense relations with China. Xi has not yet confirmed he will come. After Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks with Biden and other senior US officials in Washington, the White House said both countries had agreed to keep up “high-level diplomacy” to try to smooth ties. The two sides “reaffirmed” that they were “working together towards a meeting between President Biden and President Xi Jinping in San Francisco in November,” the White House said in a statement. A senior administration official said the White House was leaving it to Beijing to confirm that Xi would come but “we are making preparations for just such a meeting.” Biden earlier told Wang that Washington and Beijing must “manage competition in the relationship responsibly and maintain open lines of communication,” the White House said. With the Israel-Hamas conflict raging in the Middle East, Biden also “underscored that the United States and China must work together to address global challenges,” it added in a statement. US officials had “expressed our deep concern with the situation (in the Middle East) and pressed China to take a more constructive approach” including talking to its allies there, the senior administration official added. The White House released a photo of Biden and Wang shaking hands. Journalists were not allowed in to the meeting, at which Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan were also present. Wang has been on a two-day visit to Washington during which he also met with Blinken and Sullivan, the latest in a series of high-level contacts between the United States and China. The Chinese foreign minister had been expected to meet Biden after Blinken met Xi in Beijing in June, but it had not previously been confirmed. ‘Stabilize’ Wang said after meeting Blinken on Thursday that he wanted to “stabilize US-China relations” and “reduce misunderstanding” after years of tensions. Acknowledging that differences will still come up, Wang said China would respond “calmly, because we are of the view that what is right and what is wrong is not determined by who has the stronger arm or the louder voice.” Biden and Xi have had no contact since a meeting in Bali in November 2022. Relations have been tense for years between the world’s top two economies as they vie for influence in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, and as Beijing boosts cooperation with Russia in a bid to reduce US dominance. Tensions have been particularly high over Taiwan, the self-ruling democracy claimed by Beijing, which over the past year has launched major military exercises in response to actions by US lawmakers. The United States and China have also traded barbs over the conflict in the Middle East, where Biden has been Israel’s foremost ally. US officials have repeatedly spoken of creating “guardrails” with China to prevent worst-case scenarios and have sought, without success, to restore contact between the two militaries. Biden on Wednesday warned China of US treaty obligations to the Philippines, which said that Chinese vessels deliberately hit Manila’s boats in dispute-rife waters – an account contested by Beijing. Speaking alongside Australia’s prime minister, a key Asia-Pacific ally, Biden vowed to compete with China “every way according to the international rules – economically, politically, in other ways. But I’m not looking for conflict.”

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