US President Donald Trump agreed to honour the United States’ “One China” policy during a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the White House said on Thursday, as he took steps to improve ties after angering Beijing by talking to Taiwan’s leader. This is their first conversation since the US leader came to power.
A White House statement said the two leaders had a lengthy phone conversation on Thursday night Washington time. It came hours before Trump is to play host to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House and later, at his Palm Beach, Florida, retreat.
The White House said Trump and Xi discussed numerous topics.
“President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honour our ‘one China’ policy,” the statement said. “Representatives of the United States and China will engage in discussions and negotiations on various issues of mutual interest.”
The call was described as cordial with both leaders expressing best wishes to their peoples.
“They also extended invitations to meet in their respective countries. President Trump and President Xi look forward to further talks with very successful outcomes,” the statement said.
In response, Chinese president Xi Jinping said he “appreciates” Donald Trump’s affirmation.
The official broadcaster CCTV said in a report on the conversation, “Xi Jinping appreciates Trump’s emphasis on the American government’s commitment to the One China policy and pointed out that the One China principle is the political foundation of US-China relations.”
The two sides also signaled that with the “One China” issue resolved, they could have more normal relations.
“Representatives of the United States and China will engage in discussions and negotiations on various issues of mutual interest,” the statement said. In a separate statement read out on Chinese state television, Xi said China appreciated Trump’s upholding of the “One China” policy.
“I believe that the United States and China are cooperative partners, and through joint efforts we can push bilateral relations to a historic new high,” the statement cited Xi as saying.
The White House described the call as “extremely cordial” with both leaders expressing best wishes to their peoples. “They also extended invitations to meet in their respective countries. President Trump and President Xi look forward to further talks with very successful outcomes,” the statement said.
Washington cut formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979, recognizing the Communist mainland rulers in Beijing as the sole government of “One China.”
Lawyer James Zimmerman, the former head of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said Trump should have never raised the “one China” policy in the first place.
“There is certainly a way of negotiating with the Chinese, but threats concerning fundamental, core interests are counterproductive from the get-go,” he said in an email.
“The end result is that Trump just confirmed to the world that he is a paper tiger, a ‘zhilaohu’ – someone that seems threatening but is wholly ineffectual and unable to stomach a challenge.”
The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, but is also Taiwan’s biggest ally and arms supplier and is bound by legislation to provide the means to help the island defend itself.
During his campaign, Trump repeatedly attacked Beijing for “stealing” American jobs and has threatened to slap it with massive tariffs. Last week, US ties with staunch ally Australia became strained after the Washington Post published details about an acrimonious phone call between Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.