Biden’s National Security Adviser in Malta: Closed Door Talks with China’s Foreign Minister

The White House stated on Sunday that President Biden’s National Security adviser met with China’s foreign minister over two days in Malta to appropriately maintain the connection during strained ties and mutual suspicion between the competing nations.

As the world’s two largest economies attempt to keep the channels of communication open, the White House reported that Jake Sullivan and Chinese envoy Wang Yi had candid, substantial, and constructive discussions. Over two days, the two officials spent close to 12 hours together in Malta.

Despite their extensive trade alliance, Washington and Beijing view each other as competitors. Biden recently met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang in India for the Group of 20 Summit. Afterward, he assured reporters that their conversation had been amicable and focused on maintaining regional stability.

To counter China’s dominance in the Pacific, Biden has worked to strengthen ties with Japan, South Korea, India, Vietnam, and others. However, Biden stated that the partnerships are unrelated to a possible ‘cold war’ with China at a news conference held in Hanoi, Vietnam, last Sunday.

Biden stated that establishing a solid foundation for global economic growth was more important than trying to contain China.
According to the White House, Sullivan and Wang discussed bilateral relations, international and regional security concerns, the Ukraine conflict, and Taiwan’s status during their meeting. They talked about AI, drug prevention, and American citizens detained in China.

The United States recognized the significance of maintaining peace and security across the Taiwan Strait. The United States and the People’s Republic of China “reaffirmed their commitment to maintain this strategic communication channel and to pursue additional high-level engagement and consultations in key areas in the coming months.”

The whereabouts of Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu, who has not been seen in public since August 29, were not discussed during the conversations, according to a senior Biden administration who briefed reporters on the matter.

Speculation about Li’s standing comes after Qin Gang was abruptly removed in July as foreign minister, a change announced weeks after he had disappeared from public view earlier in the summer.

The anonymous administration official who discussed the closed-door meeting stated that the conversations centered on the bilateral relationship when asked why Sullivan did not bring up the problem with Wang.

The Sullivan-Wang meeting occurred just before Biden and other world leaders are set to attend the United Nations General Assembly. On Tuesday, Biden is scheduled to address the world body and meet with leaders of five Central Asian nations: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Sullivan told reporters last week that Biden’s meeting with those leaders should not be seen as an effort to counterbalance Chinese influence in the region.

Biden has stated that he hopes to meet with Xi soon. The White House claims that the two presidents have not spoken since their meeting in Indonesia in November last year.