Biden, Xi greet each other warmly as they meet for talks ahead of G20

AFP

Chinese leader Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden met on Monday for long-awaited talks that come as relations between their countries are at their lowest in decades, marred by disagreements over a host of issues from Taiwan to trade.

The two, holding their first in-person talks since Biden became president, met on the Indonesian island of Bali ahead of a Group of 20 (G20) summit on Tuesday that is set to be fraught with tension over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

They smiled as they shook hands warmly in front of a row of Chinese and US flags in a ballroom at the luxury hotel Mulia on Bali's Nusa Dua bay.

"We spent a lot of time together back in the day when we were both vice presidents and it's just great to see you," Biden told Xi as he put an arm around him, adding in remarks delivered in front of reporters that he was committed to keeping lines of communication open on a personal and government level.

"As the leaders of our two nations, we share responsibility, in my view, to show that China and the United States can manage our differences, prevent competition from... turning into conflict, and to find ways to work together on urgent global issues that require our mutual cooperation."

He mentioned climate change and food insecurity as problems the world expected their two countries to address.

Responding to Biden, Xi said as leaders of two major countries, they needed to chart their course, find the right direction and elevate their relationship. Xi said he looked forward to working with Biden to bring the relationship back on the right track.

Neither leader wore a mask to ward off COVID though members of their delegations did.

Their main topics of discussion are expected to be Taiwan, Ukraine and North Korea's nuclear ambitions, issues that will also loom over the G20 that is being held without Russian President Vladimir Putin in attendance.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will represent Putin at the G20 summit - the first since Russia invaded Ukraine in February - after the Kremlin said Putin was too busy to attend. Russia's foreign ministry said a report that Lavrov was taken to hospital after arriving in Bali was fake news.

On Sunday, Biden told Asian leaders in Cambodia that US communication lines with China would stay open to prevent conflict, with tough talks almost certain in the days ahead.

Relations have been roiled in recent years by growing tensions over issues ranging from Hong Kong and Taiwan to the South China Sea, trade practices and US restrictions on Chinese technology.

But US officials said there have been quiet efforts by both Beijing and Washington over the past two months to repair ties.

"These meetings do not take place in isolation, they are part of a very sustained process," said one Biden administration official. "We have engaged in serious, sustained - dozens and dozens of hours - of quiet diplomacy behind the scenes.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told reporters in Bali earlier that the meeting was "intended to stabilise the relationship between the United States and China, and to create a more certain atmosphere for US businesses".

She said that Biden had been clear with China about national security concerns regarding restrictions on sensitive US technologies and had raised concern about the reliability of Chine supply chains for commodities like minerals.

Monday's meeting is unlikely to produce a joint statement, the White House has said.

G20 summit host President Joko Widodo of Indonesia said he hoped the gathering could "deliver concrete partnerships that can help the world in its economic recovery".

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