White House dodges on whether Biden will bring up COVID-19 origins in Xi Jinping meeting

The White House declined to say whether President Biden will press Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the origins of COVID-19 during their in-person meeting next week.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre dodged a question on the issue during a Thursday press briefing. Republicans have signaled intentions to investigate the issue if they take control of the House of Representatives or the Senate once final midterm election results are in.

“Again, I’m not going to get and Jake [Sullivan] has said this as well, not going to get ahead of the agenda of what they’re going to discuss when they have their [bilateral meeting],” Jean-Pierre responded.

“Certainly, we will share the conversation and what came up. The president has always been clear on getting to the bottom of COVID and has been very clear in reports that we have put out on the origins of COVID as well. But I’m just not going to get ahead of that conversation,” she added.

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President Biden will meet with China’s leader while attending the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia on Wednesday and Thursday.
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Chinese President Xi Jinping sits down with representatives of teachers and students during a visit to Renmin University of China in Beijing, April 25, 2022.
(Ju Peng/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Biden’s meeting with Xi will be the first time the pair have seen each other in person since Biden entered office. The meeting also comes just weeks after Xi secured a third term as China’s leader.

The pair will meet while attending the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia on Wednesday and Thursday.

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Biden and Xi are expected to discuss efforts on how they will deepen lines of communication between Washington and Beijing as tension between the two nations remains high, the White House said Thursday.

They will also address how to “responsibly manage competition” and will “work together where our interests align,” particularly on geopolitical challenges that effect the global community.

A People’s Liberation Army member looks through binoculars during military exercises as Taiwan’s frigate Lan Yang is seen in the distance, Aug. 5, 2022.
(Lin Jian/Xinhua via AP)

The pair are also likely to discuss the ongoing situation in Taiwan, which China has long threatened to escalate.

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Biden’s administration has adopted a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether the U.S. would intervene militarily if China invaded the island. Biden himself has repeatedly stated that the U.S. would do so, but other members of his administration have also repeatedly walked back his statements.

Taiwan split from mainland China in 1949 after democratic forces lost a civil war to the Chinese Communist Party and fled to the island.

Caitlin McFall contributed ot this report.