U.S. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, might meet each other when they attend the upcoming Group of 20 (G20) summit in Italy this October.
No plans yet but open to a meeting
U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a press call on June 17 that Biden will "look for opportunities to engage with President Xi going forward", according to the White House.
However, while he said there are no particular plans at the moment, he added that both leaders are "likely to be at the G20 in Italy in October". He also said both the U.S. and China would work out the "right modality for the two presidents to engage".
Such a meeting could take place on the margins of the summit or another international summit, or it could be a phone call, he explained.
Sullivan also said efforts from Biden to engage with Xi is "in some way to take stock of" where the two countries are in their relationship, as well as to ensure that they have the same kind of "direct communication" the U.S. has found valuable with Putin.
"It's now just a question of when and how," he added.
Both Xi and Biden spoke on the phone in February, and Xi had taken part in an online climate change summit hosted by Biden in April.
If they were to meet in October, it would be the former's first face-to-face meeting with a U.S. leader since his last meeting with former U.S. President Donald Trump two years ago on the margins of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
Biden said he and Xi are "not old friends"
Biden has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin just a day before these remarks were made.
The latest high-level correspondence between Washington and Beijing was the phone call between U.S. State of Secretary Antony Blinken and Chinese foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi that took place before the G7 summit.
Shortly after Sullivan's remarks, however, the U.S. State Department's spokesperson Ned Price clarified that Sullivan was speaking on the point that there is "no substitute for personal diplomacy", which was seen in the meeting between Biden and Putin, and "applies across the board".
Price added that there is no meeting planned at the moment, but the U.S. remains open to a meeting if "the conditions are right".
Previously, following the meeting with Putin, Biden was asked by a reporter if he planned to hold talks with Xi like "old friend to old friend", Reuters reported.
Biden had responded by saying while the two leaders know each other well, they are "not old friends", and that it's "just pure business".
Both leaders had met several times in their political careers, starting from the time when Xi was still vice president to the former President Hu Jintao.
Relations between the U.S. and China are facing a downward spiral as they continue to spar over a long list of issues.
G7 members, including the U.S., had also just presented a united stance on China, marking a significant shift in tone from the last G7 meeting.
Exerting greater pressure on the Chinese government to address its human rights issues, such as in Xinjiang, they had also called for a renewed probe nto the origins of Covid-19.
China has retaliated by slamming the group for making "baseless accusations", and repeating its call for other countries not to meddle with its internal affairs.
Top image by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images