Trump backs 'one-China' policy in Xi call

Kristi Paul
February 15, 2017

President Donald Trump sent China's President Xi Jinping a letter saying he looks forward to having a "constructive relationship" with Beijing, the White House said in a statement.

The sudden concession came during a long telephone call between Trump and China's President Xi Jinping Thursday night, Friday in Asia.

Trump's promise to maintain the "one China" policy marks a sharp reversal of his previous statements on the issue.

Trump's agreement to follow "one China" is a step toward a cordial relationship between his administration and the world power - one that could be crucial to the U.S.'s and the world's economic health.

This week, Trump seemingly softened his tone in a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, in which he extended his greetings for the Chinese New Year and said he meant to "develop a constructive relationship" between the two countries.

The White House said earlier this week that Trump had sent a letter to Xi, weeks after receiving a letter of congratulations from the leader of the Asian giant. It was the first conversation between the two leaders since Trump took office, and the 19th world leader that the president has spoken to or met with since Inauguration day.

Xi said he greatly appreciated Trump's willingness to expand China-U.S. cooperation and develop a constructive bilateral relationship that will benefit the two countries and the global community.

Diplomatic sources in Beijing say China has been nervous about Xi being left humiliated in the event a call with Trump goes wrong and the details are leaked to the US media. The group outlines a possible grand bargain in which North Korea agrees to a "verified freeze in the nuclear and missile programs" in exchange for a formal peace treaty replacing the Korean War armistice and diplomatic relations with the United States.

China thus needs to address the "fair trade" issue.

As I have said before in these blogs, Trump is totally unpredictable and only time will tell if there is a method to his madness.

At the time Trump also correctly noted that the U.S. sells billions of dollars worth of military equipment to Taiwan.

China nonetheless filed a "diplomatic protest" against the USA over the communication, but never detailed to whom it was addressed or what repercussions it may carry.

That 10-minute phone call enraged Beijing, which sees Taiwan as one of its provinces, even though the island has had its own, separate government since 1949 as a result of a civil war. China largely blamed Taiwan - not Trump - for the call. Rex Tillerson had taken Trump's discourse up a notch during his confirmation hearing by supporting an aggressive US posture that would include blocking China's access to islands it has built in the South China Sea.

China will work with the United States to enhance communication and cooperation so that bilateral ties can advance in a sound and stable manner and yield more fruits to benefit the two peoples and people of all countries in the world, Xi said. While he sent the letter more than a week after the January 28 holiday, China responds with praise and rejects suggestions that the timing was a slight.

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