Washington | US lawmakers have urged President Joe Biden to raise with Beijing the issue of illicit fentanyl trafficking, coercive environment for American businesses and stand up for the military's ability to freely operate in the South China Sea during a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Wednesday.
They also said Biden should be "adamant" that China "leans on Russia and Iran not to exacerbate the military crises happening around the world".
Biden and Xi are scheduled to meet in San Francisco on Wednesday on the sidelines of the APEC Leadership meeting. The White House is calling it a summit.
On the Senate floor, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer listed out issues, including fentanyl trafficking and the coercive environment for US businesses in China, that he thought Biden should raise with Xi.
"On the Israel-Gaza conflict in particular, we told President Xi that China needs to use its influence on Iran to stop them from acting in any way that would widen the conflict. China should play a positive and not a negative role in this delicate crisis,” he said.
"In fact, during my meeting with President Xi... I criticised the Chinese government for issuing a statement about October 7 (militant group Hamas' attack on Israel) that failed to condemn the killing of civilians. They ended up issuing a stronger statement the next day," Schumer said.
He asserted that if President Biden is "similarly firm that China should play a stabilizing role with Iran and Russia, I think it will make a big difference." The Senate majority leader felt that Wednesday's meeting between President Biden and President Xi will be a real test for China to show that they truly want a better relationship with the United States.
"I expect President Biden to be adamant, as we were with President Xi, that China must lean on Russia and Iran not to exacerbate the military crises happening around the world,” he said.
Congressman Rob Wittman said that President Biden must send a clear message that the US will not tolerate the People's Liberation Army's increasing military aggression or the Chinese Communist Party's "insidious attempts to advance their malign agenda".
Wittman, vice-chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and member of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, said after sending a series of US cabinet officials to China over the past year without any tangible outcomes, it was "baffling" that Biden was willing to meet with "dictator" Xi Jinping without making any demands.
"Any meeting between the US and Chinese Communist Party officials should only be held if China agrees to establish reasonable requirements to stop the flow of fentanyl, to cease all near-collisions and dangerous intercepts of US ships and aircraft, to cease harassment of Philippine vessels around the Second Thomas shoal, and to cease all military operations in Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone east of the Median Line," he said.
Congressman Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Biden needs to clearly lay out the steep consequences China will face if its aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea continues.
"Xi needs to understand that the US will not be intimidated. We will continue to support our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.
"President Biden must also stand up for our military's ability to freely operate in the South China Sea – China's dangerous harassment of our pilots and sailors needs to come to an end," Rogers said.
Senators Mitt Romney and Jim Risch sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken seeking clarification on whether the US invited Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee — who has been sanctioned by the United States since 2020 for his role in implementing Hong Kong's draconian national security law imposed by Beijing — to the leaders meeting of the 2023 Asia-Pacific Economic Community (APEC).
"Lee is claiming publicly that the US government invited him personally, and the Department of State has not confirmed or denied these claims,” the senators wrote.
"Instead, in its public statements, the department has only said that 'participating in APEC 2023 will be in accordance with US law and regulations, including with respect to sanctions'," they said.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Senator Chuck Grassley said China is increasingly aggressive in the South China Sea and the Strait of Taiwan.
"To be sure, our responses are being closely watched by all three of these adversaries -- Russia, China and Iran. This is a critical time when sending more messages of weakness would be very dangerous," he added.