China on Monday issued the clearest sign yet its leader Xi Jinping will skip an important gathering of world leaders in New Delhi this weekend, as it confirmed Premier Li Qiang will be traveling to the event.
Xi’s attendance at the G20 summit was thrown into doubt last week when Reuters reported that he was likely to miss it, citing two unnamed Indian diplomats.
At a regular news conference Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry announced Li would be attending the summit on Saturday and Sunday, without mentioning Xi.
Mao Ning, a spokesperson for the ministry, sidestepped a question from a reporter about the reason behind Xi’s absence – which would be the first time China top’s leader has skipped a G20 summit.
“The Group of 20 is a major forum for international economic cooperation, and China has always attached great importance to and actively participated in relevant activities,” Mao said, without addressing the substance of the question.
Beijing’s announcement came after US President Joe Biden publicly expressed disappointment that he will not see Xi at the summit.
“I am disappointed – but I’m going to get to see him,” Biden told reporters on Sunday.
Biden had previously told CNN he would be meeting with Xi in “the fall.”
They last spoke on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Bali last November.