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Biden announces new agreements with China on fentanyl and resuming military talks

President Joe Biden speaks during a press conference after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders' week in Woodside, Calif., on Wednesday.
Brendan Smialowski
/
AFP via Getty Images
President Joe Biden speaks during a press conference after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders' week in Woodside, Calif., on Wednesday.

President Biden is expected to announce agreements on military communication channels and counternarcotics at a solo press conference after speaking with the Chinese leader for the first time in a year.

The leaders met just ahead of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Their talks come as tensions between the world's two largest economies have been on the rise, and as the White House has been trying to take a strong-on-China approach.

The last time Biden and Xi spoke face-to-face was at the G20 summit in Indonesia in November 2022.

Tune in to NPR special coverage and watch Biden's press conference:

Biden's idea of a successful meeting is restoring communication

Biden said Tuesday he wants communication with Xi to go back to a more normal level — especially between the nations' militaries.

In August 2022, Beijing declared it wascutting off dialogue with the U.S. on major issues such as climate and military relations after then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.

"To get back on a normal course of corresponding: being able to pick up the phone and talk to one another when there's a crisis, being able to make sure our militaries still have contact with one another," Biden said when a reporter asked what would make his meeting with Xi a success.

"We're not trying to decouple from China, but what we're trying to do is change the relationship for the better," Biden added.

At the start of the meeting, Biden told Xi, "There is no substitute to face-to-face discussions. I've always found our discussions straightforward and frank, and I've always appreciated them."

President Joe Biden Meets with China's President President Xi Jinping at the Filoli Estate in Woodside, Calif., on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperative conference.
Doug Mills / AP
/
AP
President Joe Biden Meets with China's President President Xi Jinping at the Filoli Estate in Woodside, Calif., on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperative conference.

Despite the lack of communication between Biden and Xi themselves, U.S. administration officials and their Chinese counterparts met multiple times in recent months.

"We have to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict," Biden told Xi.

Fentanyl is also expected to be a topic of conversation

In addition to reestablishing communications between the U.S. and China's military, the White House has said efforts to combat the illicit trade of fentanyl will also be a topic of Biden and Xi's conversation.

And conflicts in the Middle East and between Ukraine and Russia will also come up, he said, including Iran's involvement in the war between Israel and Hamas.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.