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Biden: China should expect ‘extreme competition’ from US

Biden appears to be concentrating his initial telephone diplomacy on US allies. He so far has spoken with the leaders of Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Australia and the NATO secretary-general.

He also worked in a conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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In the interview, Biden described Xi as “very bright” and “very tough” but without “a democratic, small D, bone in his body”.

Shortly after Biden succeeded President Donald Trump in the White House, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry said that “after this very difficult and extraordinary time, both the Chinese and American people deserve a better future.” Beijing welcomed the Biden administration’s decision to remain in the World Health Organisation and return to the Paris climate agreement.

The new administration, however, is unlikely to significantly alter US policies on trade, Taiwan, human rights and the South China Sea that have angered Xi’s increasingly assertive government.

China’s President Xi Jinping.

China’s President Xi Jinping.Credit:AP

Biden, in the interview taped Friday, said he has said to Xi “all along, that we need not have a conflict”. But, Biden added, there will be “extreme competition. And I’m not going to do it the way that he knows. And that’s because he’s sending signals as well.”

Biden said he will not pursue US-China relations in the way that Trump did but will focus on “international rules of the road”.

Biden also said the US would not lift sanctions simply to get Iran back to the negotiating table.

The statement appeared to be posturing as the US and Iran weigh whether and how to revive the pact.

In the interview, Biden said “no” when asked whether Washington would lift sanctions to get Tehran to the negotiating table.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: if the US lifts sanctions, Iran will return to the deal.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: if the US lifts sanctions, Iran will return to the deal.Credit:Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader

While Iran has insisted the United States first drop its sanctions before it resumes compliance, Washington has demanded the reverse.

Asked if Iran had to stop enriching uranium first, Biden nodded. It was not clear exactly what he meant, since Iran was allowed to enrich uranium to 3.67 per cent under the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

A senior US official later said Biden meant Iran had to stop enriching beyond the deal’s limits, not that it had to stop enriching entirely before the two sides might talk.

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“They have to stop enriching beyond the limits of the JCPOA,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There is nothing changed in the US position. The United States wants Iran to come back into (compliance with) its JCPOA commitments and if it does, the United States will do the same.”

Iran in January said it has resumed 20 per cent uranium enrichment at its underground Fordow nuclear site, well above the deal’s limit but far short of the 90 per cent that is weapons-grade.

In response to ex-president Donald Trump’s withdrawal from JCPOA Tehran has breached the deal’s key limits by building up its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, refining uranium to a higher level of purity and using advanced centrifuges for enrichment.

Biden has said if Tehran returned to strict compliance, Washington would follow suit and use that as a springboard to a broader agreement on other areas of concern for Washington including Iran’s missile development and regional activities.

Those activities include support for proxies in conflicts roiling countries such as Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

Iran has said it could quickly reverse its JCPOA violations if US sanctions are removed but has ruled out talks on its missile programme and its influence in the Middle East, where Iran and Saudi Arabia have fought proxy wars for decades.

After Biden’s comments, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday that Tehran’s “final and irreversible” decision was to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal only if Washington lifts sanctions on the Islamic Republic, Iranian state TV reported.

AP, Reuters

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