By David Brunnstrom and Humeyra Pamuk
WASHINGTON – White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell said on Tuesday that it was possible for China and United States to coexist in peace but the challenge was enormous and Beijing had become increasingly assertive.
At an event hosted by the Asia Society think tank, Campbell said President Joe Biden will host a summit later this year with the leaders of Australia, India and Japan – the so-called “Quad” grouping that Washington see as a means of standing up to China.
Asked when he expected a first meeting between Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping and whether this could come at the G20 summit in October, he replied: “My expectation will be that we’ll have some sort of engagement before too long.”
Campbell said the challenge for the United States would be to come up with a strategy that presented China with opportunities, but also a response if it takes steps “antithetical to the maintenance of peace and stability”.
There were likely to be “periods of uncertainty, perhaps even periods of occasional raised tensions,” he said.
“Do I think it’s possible that the United States and China can coexist and live in peace? Yes I do. But I do think the challenge is enormously difficult for this generation and the next,” he said.
He said Beijing had been increasingly assertive in recent times, taking on many countries simultaneously, a strategy that contrasted with how it operated in the 1990s.
He criticized China’s approach to U.S. ally Australia.
“I’m not sure they have the strategic thinking to go back to a different kind of diplomacy towards Australia right now. I see a harshness in their approach that appears unyielding”
On Taiwan, the self-ruled U.S.-backed island China sees as part of its territory and wants to reclaim, Campbell maintained a cautious approach.
He said the United States supports having a strong unofficial relationship with Taiwan but does not support its independence.
“We fully recognize, understand the sensitivities involved here,” he said. “We do believe that Taiwan has a right to live in peace. We want to see its international role, particularly in areas like vaccines, and issues associated with the pandemic, they should have a role to play here, they should not be shunned in international community.”