Updated Oct 6, 2021 - World

Biden says he and China's Xi have agreed to abide by Taiwan "agreement"

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the debt ceiling from the State Dining Room of the White House on October 4, 2021 in Washington, DC.

President Biden at the White House on Monday. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden told reporters Tuesday evening that he discussed Taiwan with China's President Xi Jinping in their phone call last month.

Why it matters: Beijing's growing aggression toward Taipei is drawing fresh concerns of a war in the region. Asked by a reporter Tuesday for comment on the provocation, Biden said he had "spoken with Xi about Taiwan," per a pool report. "We agree, we will abide by the Taiwan agreement," Biden said.

Between the lines: That's an apparent reference to a longstanding diplomatic understanding that the U.S. recognizes Beijing as the "sole legal government of China," without clarifying the United States' position on Taiwan's sovereignty, Bloomberg notes.

  • The Chinese government sent a record 145 warplanes into the self-governing island's air defense zone during a four-day period this month.

The bottom line: "We made it clear that I don't think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement," Biden said.

Meanwhile, a delegation of French senators arrived in Taiwan on Wednesday for a five-day visit, during which they will meet with President Tsai Ing-wen.

  • Chinese government officials had urged the lawmakers to cancel the visit, AP notes.

The big picture: Taiwan separated from China in 1949 amid the Chinese Civil War and Beijing regards Taipei as a breakaway province.

  • Taiwan's defense minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, told Parliament on Wednesday that the current crisis "is the most severe in the 40 years since I’ve enlisted," per AP.

Go deeper: Jake Sullivan to meet top Chinese diplomat as Taiwan tensions soar

Editor's note: This article has been updated with details of the senators' visit, Chiu's comment and further context.

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