US military thinks Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan "is not a good idea right now," President Biden says after China threatened to respond with "forceful measures" should the House speaker tour the Beijing-claimed island.

US calls China its main strategic rival and says high-level engagement is important to keeping the difficult relationship stable.
US calls China its main strategic rival and says high-level engagement is important to keeping the difficult relationship stable. (Reuters file)

US President Joe Biden plans to speak with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping by the end of the month at a moment of simmering tensions between the countries over Taiwan and trade.

"I think I'll be talking to President Xi within the next 10 days," Biden told reporters on Wednesday as he returned from a climate-related trip to Massachusetts.

The long-discussed call between the two leaders, their first in four months, would come at a crucial moment given tensions over Taiwan, and as the Biden administration weighs cutting import duties on goods from China to help reduce inflation pressures on American consumers.

Speaking to reporters, Biden appeared to cast doubt on a trip reportedly planned by House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit Taiwan next month.

"I think that the military thinks it's not a good idea right now, but I don't know what the status of it is," Biden said.

The United States calls China its main strategic rival and says high-level engagement is important to keeping the difficult relationship stable and preventing it from veering inadvertently into conflict. Last month, Washington pushed NATO to adopt a strategic document calling China a security challenge.

READ MORE: Beijing dubs Washington the 'maker of security risks' in Taiwan Strait

'Hypothetical' trip

Beijing said on Tuesday that it would respond with "forceful measures" should Pelosi visit the Chinese-claimed island, and that such a visit would "seriously undermine China's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Pelosi was originally scheduled to visit in April but had to postpone after she tested positive for Covid-19. She would be the highest-ranking American lawmaker to visit the close US ally since Newt Gingrich, a Republican, travelled there 25 years ago when he was House speaker.

Pelosi's office declined to comment on whether the visit is moving forward, citing security concerns. The State Department has called the trip "hypothetical." Plans for the trip were reported by the Financial Times, which also said the White House had expressed concerns.

China considers the island its own territory, and the issue is a constant irritant in ties between Beijing and Washington.

Biden's administration has repeatedly spoken of its "rock-solid" commitment to the island's security.

US military vessels were conducting transits through the Taiwan Strait as recently as Tuesday, angering Beijing, which sent fighters across the strait's median line this month following a visit to Taipei by US Senator Rick Scott.

READ MORE: China will 'fight to the very end' to stop Taiwan independence

Tariffs dispute

On trade, the Biden administration has been at odds with China over fulfilling its commitments to existing agreements.

But rising inflation has prompted a look at possible tariff relief, including the 'Section 301' tariffs imposed by former president Donald Trump, covering some $370 billion in Chinese imports.

The imposed penalties were aimed at reducing US trade undersupply as well as forcing Beijing to find other practices.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has called for eliminating some of those tariffs as a way to help fight inflation in the United States. Others in the Biden administration, including US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, have raised concerns about easing tariffs when China has not upheld its agreements on purchasing US products.

People familiar with the tariff deliberations have told Reuters that Biden also is weighing whether to pair a removal of some tariffs with a new investigation into China's industrial subsidies and efforts to dominate key sectors, such as semiconductors. Such a probe could lead to more tariffs.

READ MORE: US, China top diplomats to meet amid frayed ties

Source: TRTWorld and agencies