Here Xi Comes

Happy Thursday! As you and yours begin to put together your Christmas lists this year, let us offer a little unsolicited advice. A recently sterilized hippopotamus—descended from the very creatures brought to Colombia by the late drug kingpin Pablo Escobar—will not do

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met Wednesday for the first time in a year at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco and held conversations in which—according to Biden—“real progress” repairing their relationship was made. The White House announced a resumption of military-to-military communications with China, as well as a bilateral agreement to combat illegal drug trafficking and a shared commitment to working together to tackle climate change. Still, Biden underscored the divide that remains between the two leaders. “Well, look, he’s a dictator in the sense that he is a guy who runs a country that is a communist country that’s based on a form of government totally different than ours,” Biden said in a press conference after the meeting. “Anyway, we made progress.”
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported Wednesday on Iran’s nuclear activity, detailing the growth in the country’s weapons-grade enriched uranium stockpile. The report—shared confidentially with IAEA member states and seen by the Associated Press—said that Iran has an estimated 128.3 kilograms of uranium enriched to 60 percent purity, an increase of 6.7 kilograms since the September report. The current stockpile—once enriched to 90 percent purity—could fuel three nuclear weapons.
  • A U.S. Navy destroyer in the Red Sea on Wednesday shot down a drone headed toward the ship. Military officials say the drone originated from Yemen, but did not indicate whether the Houthi rebels were responsible. “The [USS Thomas] Hudner’s crew engaged and shot down the drone to ensure the safety of U.S. personnel,” the Defense Department said in a statement. “There were no U.S. casualties or any damage to the ship.” Last week, the Houthis shot down a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Red Sea.
  • Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers on Wednesday requested a mistrial in the New York civil fraud case involving Trump’s real estate and financial statements, citing a “tangible and overwhelming” bias against their client. “Given the demonstrable partisan bias present on the bench at trial, the only way to maintain public confidence in a truly independent and impartial judiciary and the rule of law is to bring these proceedings to an immediate halt,” Trump’s attorneys wrote in their filing. Judge Arthur Engoron, who presides over the case and will ultimately rule on a mistrial, gave the New York attorney general’s office until Thursday to respond to the request.
  • Retiring Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said Wednesday that he is “absolutely” considering running for president in 2024 and will travel the country in the coming months to see if there is a desire for a moderate option in the presidential contest. “I’m totally, absolutely scared to death that Donald Trump would become president again,” Manchin told NBC News. Manchin also addressed concerns that he could siphon votes away from President Joe Biden. “I’ve never been a spoiler in my life of anything,” he said, “and I would never be a spoiler now.”
  • Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced Wednesday that he had met the donor threshold—80,000 unique individuals—to qualify for the fourth GOP presidential debate to be held at the University of Alabama on December 6. His campaign pointed to two national polls where Christie met the 6 percent polling threshold, but it’s unclear if the Republican National Committee will accept the polls as valid to fulfill the qualifying criteria. Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy also appear to have qualified for the upcoming debate—though it is once again unlikely that Trump will participate.
  • New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy announced yesterday that she will run to unseat Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez in 2024. Murphy joins Rep. Andy Kim as the second well-known Democrat in the state to challenge Menendez in the wake of the senator’s indictment on bribery charges.

Post-Panda Diplomacy

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk together after a meeting during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' week in Woodside, California, on November 15, 2023. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk together after a meeting during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' week in Woodside, California, on November 15, 2023. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Striking up a conversation with someone you haven’t spoken to in a year can be a little awkward under any circumstances, but it’s probably worse if that person also flew a spy balloon over your country and took your pandas

Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden met on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco—their first meeting in a year—in an effort to mend a relationship that has deteriorated in recent months. Biden announced modest agreements on several issues during a solo press conference following the summit, including the resumption of some military-to-military communications, cooperation to stem the flow of fentanyl precursor chemicals and pill presses to the Western Hemisphere, and setting guardrails around military applications of artificial intelligence. But despite limited success around the edges of the relationship, intractable disagreements—like the reality of China’s aggressive posture toward Taiwan—remain.

The last time Biden and Xi spoke was in November 2022 during a three-hour meeting in Bali, Indonesia, at a Group of 20 leaders summit. That tête-à-tête was colored by discord over Beijing’s suspension of communications with the U.S. military in retaliation for then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August 2022 visit to Taiwan—a self-governing island China claims as its own—and relations between the two countries only worsened from there. In February, the U.S. shot down a Chinese spy balloon after it traversed the entire North American continent, causing Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a planned visit to Beijing. 

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