Xi told Biden at summit that China plans to reunify with Taiwan

The blunt language came during last month's meeting, sources said.

December 20, 2023, 1:33 PM

Chinese President Xi Jinping told President Joe Biden directly at their recent summit that China will reunify with Taiwan, sources confirmed to ABC News.

NBC News was the first to report the conversation.

It was unclear whether Beijing plans to use force in its effort to reunify with Taiwan, but Xi indicated they will try at first to do so peacefully, the sources said.

Xi has said as much publicly but what is noteworthy is that he said this so bluntly to the president at a summit intended to thaw their relations.

U.S. President Joe Biden greets Chinese President Xi Jinping before a meeting during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' week. Nov. 15, 2023, in Woodside, Calif.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

U.S. officials stress it wasn't surprising given what they've heard and seen.

"I'm not gonna get into the specifics of the discussion between the two leaders. I think you can understand I'm not gonna read out that private conversation," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Wednesday aboard Air Force One.

"President Xi has been public and clear about his desires for reunification, that's not, that's not something different, or new. We have been clear, and the president was clear with you guys and with President Xi that we still adhere to the One China policy, we don't support independence for Taiwan. We also don't support a change in the status quo unilaterally and certainly not one by force and as the president has said, there's no reason for this to come to blows," he added.

Asked about whether U.S involvement in two other global conflicts -- Ukraine and in Gaza -- alters his previous commitment to defend Taiwan from any Chinese military action, Biden reiterated in November the U.S. position in favor of the One China policy, which amounts to a delicate balance between respecting China's claim to the territory and maintaining close ties to Taiwan.

"Look, I reiterate what I’ve said since I’ve become president and what every previous president of late has said -- that we -- we maintain an agreement that there is a One China policy and that -- and I’m not going to change that. That’s not going to change," Biden said. "And so, that’s about the extent to which we discussed it."

Reunification with Taiwan has been a publicly stated goal of China's for some time. China confirmed this in its readout of the summit.

"Xi Jinping elaborated on his principled position on the Taiwan issue and pointed out that the Taiwan issue has always been the most important and sensitive issue in Sino-US relations. China attaches importance to the relevant positive statements made by the United States at the Bali meeting. The United States should reflect its statement that it does not support 'Taiwan independence' in specific actions, stop arming Taiwan and support China's peaceful reunification. China will eventually be unified and will inevitably be unified," the Chinese readout said.

Xi has been instructing his military to "be ready by 2027" to invade Taiwan, according to U.S. intelligence.