By Trevor Hunnicutt and Andrea Shalal
ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday his goal during talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week is to resume normal communications between the two superpowers, including military-to-military contacts.
Speaking to reporters at the White House before departing for San Francisco, Biden said he is trying to alter the U.S. relationship with China for the better, after a period of strained ties.
Biden and Xi are to meet on Wednesday in the San Francisco area during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. It will be only the second in-person meeting between the two leaders since Biden took office in January 2021.
Asked how he would measure success at the talks with Xi, Biden said:
“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 also talk about the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza as well as U.S. efforts to support Ukraine in its battle to repel Russian invaders.
“They can be frank and forthright with one another, I fully expect that that will be the case,” Kirby said.
He said 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.
Economic issues figured to be high on the agenda.
Biden said the United States does not want to decouple from China but wants to change the economic relationship for the better.
He said it would benefit all if the average citizen in China had a decent-paying job.
“But I’m not going to continue to sustain support for a position where in order to invest in China, we have to turn over all our trade secrets,” he said.
The Chinese severed military-to-military contacts with the United States in a fit of pique after then-House of Representative Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August 2022.
Restoring the contacts is a top U.S. goal to avoid miscalculations between the two militaries.
Relations between the two countries grew frosty after Biden ordered the shooting down in February of a suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew over the United States.
But top Biden administration officials have since visited Beijing and met with their counterparts to rebuild communications and trust.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, Steve Holland and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Grant McCool)