(Update 1: adds Xi comments in pars 4-6, updates dateline, minor edits)
Washington/Beijing, Feb 10 (efe-epa).- United States President Joe Biden on Wednesday (Thursday Beijing time) spoke to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for the first time as leader and expressed concern over a range of issues including human rights, regional security and Beijing’s economic practices.
The White House reported that Biden “underscored his fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan.”
Biden also conveyed to Xi that his priority is “protecting the American people’s security, prosperity, health, and way of life, and preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Later, Xi said that the Taiwan question and issues relating to Hong Kong and Xinjiang are China’s internal affairs and concern China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the US side should respect Beijing’s core interests, state media Xinhua reported.
Confrontation between the two countries would be disastrous for both countries and the world, he added.
Xi also emphasized the importance of mutual respect and equality, cooperation and maintaining regional peace and stability, as well as re-establishing dialog, Xinhua added.
The two leaders also spoke about the Covid-19 pandemic, “the shared challenges of global health security, climate change and preventing weapons proliferation,” according to a White House statement.
The new US president also took advantage of the call to wish China a happy Lunar New Year, which begins Friday.
The relationship between Washington and Beijing deteriorated dramatically during the presidency of Donald Trump, who started a trade war with China resulting in the mutual imposition of costly tariffs and sanctions.
Trump also blamed China for the spread of Covid-19, which he called the “Chinese virus.”
Beijing’s interference with Hong Kong was also a source of tension between Washington and Beijing during the Trump administration. EFE-EPA