NUSA DUA, Indonesia—U.S. President Joe Biden said on Sunday his country will maintain open communication lines and seek no conflict with China, ahead of what are expected to be tense talks on a range of geopolitical issues at the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Indonesia this week.
Biden and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are on Monday set to meet face-to-face for the first time since Biden took office, as bilateral relations languish at their worst in decades. Jake Sullivan, a national security adviser to Biden, told reporters the meeting could last “a couple of hours.”
Biden, who landed in Bali island after meeting Southeast Asian and East Asian leaders in Cambodia, said the United States would “compete vigorously” with Beijing while “ensuring competition does not veer into conflict.”
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also arrived in Bali from Cambodia earlier on Sunday.
The war in Ukraine and its economic fallout is expected to dominate discussions in Bali and at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Bangkok at the end of the week, alongside climate commitments, food insecurity, and tensions over the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea, and North Korea.
Earlier, Lavrov accused the West of militarizing Southeast Asia to contain Chinese and Russian interests in a geo-strategic battleground.
“The United States and its NATO allies are trying to master this space,” Lavrov told reporters.
Lavrov is representing Russian President Vladimir Putin at the summits and is expected to hear stinging rebukes from within the G-20 over the invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a special military operation.
Ukraine is not a G-20 member but has been invited by host Indonesia as an observer. Its president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, will address the meeting virtually.
Russia’s foreign ministry on Sunday said the G-20 was not the forum to handle security issues and should instead focus on pressing global economic challenges.
Biden held a trilateral meeting with leaders of allies Japan and South Korea and said the three countries were “more aligned than ever” on North Korea.
South Korea President Yoon Suk-yeol said the North’s recent provocations showed its regime’s “nature against humanitarianism”, adding it had become more hostile and aggressive based on confidence in its nuclear and missile capabilities.
Japan counterpart Fumio Kishida said Pyongyang’s actions, which included a recent firing of a ballistic missile over Japan, were unprecedented.
“This trilateral summit is timely given we are expecting further provocation,” Kishida said.
Kishida also took a swipe at the Chinese regime for what he called violations of Japan’s sovereignty in the East China Sea and said Beijing was responsible also for heightening regional tension in the South China Sea, a conduit for at least $3 trillion in annual trade.
Eighteen countries accounting for half the global economy attended Sunday’s East Asia Summit, which was held behind closed doors, attended by the ASEAN nations, Japan, South Korea, China, India, the United States, Russia, Australia, and New Zealand.
The summit’s chair, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, said the plenary meeting handled some heated discussion, but the atmosphere was not tense.
“Leaders talked in a mature way, no one left,” he told a news conference at the end of the three-day summit led by the Association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN).
Leaders also called on Burma’s military rulers to follow a peace plan they agreed to with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), while condemning North Korea’s missile launches and Russia’s “brutal and unjust” invasion of Ukraine.