Biden administration exploring idea of emergency ‘red phone’-type hotline with China, report says

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The Biden administration is reportedly exploring the possibility of setting up a direct line of communication between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to sources for CNN. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – Taking a cue from the Cold War days, the Biden administration is reportedly looking to set up a “red phone” situation with China.

The concept, as explained to CNN by a U.S. official and a separate source familiar with the idea, is to create a direct line of encrypted emergency communication between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping (or their national security officials) as a means to share warnings or timely information.

For instance, CNN report indicated that Biden or Xi would be able to share urgent communications concerning “military movements or warning messages sent about cyber attacks.”

The concept seems somewhat similar to the Moscow-Washington hotline — or “red telephone,” as it was more commonly (and inaccurately) known — established during the Cold War to facilitate direct communication between the White House and then-Soviet Union.

The idea for a U.S.-China hotline has also been floating around since the Obama administration, CNN states, though it was not actively pursued.

If the Biden administration intends to move forward, Chinese officials would obviously have to agree to the plan. And even then, it’s unclear whether Xi or his top officials would use the tool in the rapid manner that Biden hopes. As the White House recently noted, China had not been forthcoming with information specifically related to its early knowledge and intel concerning the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent global pandemic, calling into question the effectiveness of the idea overall.

Ideally, the emergency hotline would facilitate rapid communication between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to sources for CNN. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images)

The Pentagon, too, has already hit roadblocks with a similar strategic hotline to rapidly engage with China on matters of diplomacy and defense, as noted by CNN. Kurt Campbell, the U.S. National Security Council Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, had previously confirmed such a “hotline” during a May discussion hosted by the Financial Times, but alluded to its ineffectiveness in the past.

“So we do have a hotline, it’s known to have, the couple of times we’ve used it, just rung in an empty room for hours upon hours,” he said, according to Reuters.

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