UPDATE 1-Efforts to build ‘floor’ under US-China relations not yet successful -US official

(Adds quotes, details)

WASHINGTON, March 30 (Reuters) – Efforts to build guardrails and a floor under U.S.-China relations have yet to be successful, and coming months will determine whether it is possible to reestablish constructive diplomacy with Beijing, a top White House official said on Thursday.

Speaking at a time of heightened tensions with China over a U.S. stopover by Taiwan’s president, U.S. Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell said Washington had made clear to China that it was ready to have another call between President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

“We’re prepared and, from our perspective, we want to keep lines of communication open and it is our intention to keep those lines open,” he said at an event hosted by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) think tank.

Biden said last month after a U.S. fighter jet shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that he planned to speak to Xi about the episode and clear the air, but this has yet to happen and tensions have only risen since.

Campbell said the Chinese had been “reluctant to engage in discussions around confidence building or crisis communications, or hot lines” and it would be a “responsible step” to have such mechanisms, given that Chinese and U.S. military forces operated in proximity to each other.

“We built those during the Cold War. We think that they’re appropriate now,” he added.

Campbell said the U.S. was in the early stages of a new phase of competitive relations with China.

“There’s also a recognition that in many respects our efforts to build a foundation, a floor under the relationship and guardrails, have yet to be successful,” he said, referring to U.S. priorities when Biden and Xi last spoke at a meeting in Bali in November.

“I think you will see in the coming months whether it’s going to be possible to reestablish effective, predictable, constructive diplomacy between the United States and China.”

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen arrived in New York on Wednesday on her way to Central America. On her way back to Taipei next week, she will stop in Los Angeles, where she is expected to meet U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy, an interaction China has warned could lead to a “serious confrontation” in U.S.-China relations.

The visit comes at a time when U.S. relations with China are at what some analysts see as their worst level since Washington normalized ties with Beijing in 1979 and switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Michael Martina; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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