The joint communiqué released by the Group of Seven leaders during the summit over the weekend in Hiroshima, Japan, took aim at China over several issues, but President Biden said Sunday that he expects a “thaw” in relations with Beijing.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan recently held a meeting with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi. But for months beforehand, Beijing essentially cut off high-level contacts with Washington after Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned trip to China over the Chinese balloon that wound up over US territory in February due to unexpected weather.
Biden noted that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to maintain high-level communication when they met in Bali, Indonesia, last November. “And then this silly balloon that was carrying two freight cars’ worth of spying equipment was flying over the United States, and it got shot down, and everything changed in terms of talking to one another. I think you’re going to see that begin to thaw very shortly,” he said.
For their part, China maintains that the balloon was a weather balloon and not a surveillance device. The US has not provided evidence for the claim that it was carrying spy equipment.
While expecting a thaw in relations, Biden has shown no sign of backing down on his hardline policies against China. The Hiroshima summit came as the US is preparing to provide Taiwan with $500 million in “free” weapons, and after the US deployed about 200 troops to the island, steps the Chinese military called “intolerable.”
The Biden administration is also taking economic action against China and is considering screening US investment in the country. At the summit in Hiroshima, the G7 leaders accused China of “economic coercion.”
During his trip to Hiroshima, the city that the US dropped a nuclear bomb on in 1945, killing between 70,000 and 140,000 civilians, Biden held a meeting with the leaders of the Quad nations. The Quad consists of the US, India, Japan, and Australia, and increasing cooperation with the group is key to the Biden administration’s strategy against China in the region.