US President Joe Biden and China's Xi Jinping have both arrived in San Francisco, California, where they will hold one-on-one talks later on Wednesday.
The presidents of the world's strongest economies are set to meetat an undisclosed venue amid the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit (APEC) in the city.
It's Xi's first trip to the US in any capacity since 2017, and it will be the two leaders' first in-person, one-on-one talks since last November.
Biden says 'not trying to decouple' from China but seeking to 'change the relationship'
The talks come amid frosty US-Chinese ties as China closes in on the title of the world's largest economy and becomes more assertive on a range of foreign policy issues where it clashes either with the US or its allies.
It also coincides with European and US giants looking at reducing their dependence on China — partly as a lesson learned from the economic costs of sanctioning Russia amid its war in Ukraine. Initial references to this as "decoupling" from China had angered Beijing, and western countries have since been looking for a more neutral terms for the process like "de-risking."
"We're not trying to decouple from China. What we're trying to do is change the relationship for the better," Biden said on Tuesday.
China was already perturbed by the more confrontational trade policies of former US President Donald Trump, many of which Biden kept after taking office.
Speaking with reporters before departing for San Francisco, Biden said that success for him would mean: "To get back on a normal course, corresponding and being able to pick up the phone and talk to one another in a crisis, and being able to make sure that our militaries still have contact with one another."
Aboard Air Force One en route to San Francisco, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Biden and Xi would likely talk about the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza, US efforts to support Ukraine in its war against Russia, North Korea's missile tests, and other geopolitical issues.
Biden is "not going to be afraid to confront where confrontation is needed on certain issues where we don't see eye-to-eye" but also will look for areas to cooperate on such as climate change, Kirby told reporters.
Climate working group announced before talks
Although there are few expectations for high-level agreements or major breakthroughs, comments prior to the summit suggested negotiators in Washington and Beijing had been seeking areas where they could more easily find common ground — for instance on environmental policy.
The two countries said they would launch a working group on climate action in a joint statement released early on Wednesday. This follows months of bilateral talks behind the scenes.
The group would focus on "energy transition, methane, circular economy and resource efficiency, low-carbon and sustainable provinces/states and cities, and deforestation," the joint statement said.
The two sides said they agreed to "work together and with other parties" to "rise up to one of the greatest challenges of our time for present and future generations of humankind."
US, South Korea and Japan issue North Korea warning
On Tuesday evening in San Francisco, Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts.
The three countries agreed to step up cooperation against the increasing military cooperation between Russia and North Korea, calling it a "serious threat" to international peace, according to a statement from South Korea's government early on Wednesday.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited Russia for several days in September, visiting military and space-related sites in the country and holding talks with President Vladimir Putin.
Even Russia will be represented at the APEC meeting in San Francisco this week. Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk and other Russian officials not subject to US sanctions will represent Moscow at the meeting.
rm/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)