Wrapping up a three-day summit with allies of the Group of Seven leading democracies, U.S. President Joe Biden sought to reassure China that conflict with the West is avoidable, even as the G7 ramps up pressure to push back against Beijing’s rising military and economic security threats.
“I don’t think there’s anything inevitable about the notion that there’s going to be this conflict” between the West and Beijing, Biden said during a Sunday news conference in Hiroshima, Japan, at the conclusion of the summit.
Biden, however, underscored that the G7 and other regional partners are aligned to push back against Beijing’s aggression, including its potential invasion of Taiwan. “I think we’re more united than we’ve ever been in the Pacific,” he said.
“We all agree we’re going to maintain the One China policy,” Biden said, referring to the policy under which the United States recognizes Beijing as representing China, and acknowledges Beijing’s view that it has sovereignty over Taiwan without endorsing it. Under the policy, Washington considers Taiwan’s status as unsettled.
Neither China nor Taiwan “can independently declare what they’re going to do, period,” Biden said, referring to the Taiwan’s status quo. “There has to be a mutually agreed new outcome.”
While Western allies “don’t expect Taiwan to independently declare independence,” Biden warned China against invading the self-governing island that Beijing considers a breakaway province.
“There is clear understanding among most of our allies, that in fact, if China were to act unilaterally, there would be a response,” he warned. “There would be a response.”
Biden’s comments came as G7 countries amplified their denunciation of China’s rising military and economic security threats.
In the summit’s communique, the group criticized China for its use of “economic coercion,” militarization of the South China Sea and “interference activities” aimed at undermining the safety of diplomats, the integrity of democratic institutions and economic prosperity.
Beijing swiftly hit back, accusing the G7 of using “issues concerning China to smear and attack China and brazenly interfere in China’s internal affairs.”
“Taiwan is China’s Taiwan,” said a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson in a statement. “Resolving the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese, a matter that must be resolved by the Chinese.”
United on Ukraine
Biden said the G7 would remain united in its support for Ukraine. “We will not waver,” he said. “Putin will not break our resolve as he thought he would,” Biden added, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Later, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the decisions taken at the G7 summit in Hiroshima “aim to contain both Russia and China.”
On Friday, Biden made a significant endorsement of Kyiv’s effort to boost its air power to fight Russian aggression, telling G7 leaders Friday that he now supports joint allied training programs for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets.
For months Biden had refused requests for the aircrafts from his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, partly due to concerns that such offensive weaponry would escalate the war.
“I have a flat assurance from the – from Zelenskyy that they will not, they will not use it to go on and move into Russian geographic territory,” he said.
Returning to Washington immediately following the news conference to deal with negotiations on raising the U.S. debt ceiling to avoid the country from going into default, Biden said, “There’s been very little discussion” at the G7 about the crisis.
“They all know what’s going on about whether or not we’re going to default on our debt,” he said, adding that he “can’t guarantee” that Republicans in Congress “wouldn’t force a default by doing something outrageous.”
Without an agreement to increase the debt ceiling, the U.S. Treasury Department said it can only pay the U.S. government’s bills through June 1.
Most economists agree a U.S. default would be catastrophic for financial systems globally.