- The Washington Times - Friday, February 10, 2017

President Trump spoke by phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday night for the first time and reaffirmed the “one China” policy that treats Taiwan as part of China.

The White House said Mr. Trump agreed to honor the longstanding U.S. policy on Taiwan “at the request of President Xi.”

Before his inauguration, Mr. Trump had rattled Beijing by taking a phone call from Taiwan’s leader Tsai Ing-wen, prompting China to lodge an official complaint. In an interview last month, Mr. Trump said, “Everything is under negotiation, including ‘one China.’ “

The White House said Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi discussed several topics in the first phone conversation.

“The phone call between President Trump and President Xi was extremely cordial, and both leaders extended best wishes to the people of each other’s countries,” the White House said in a statement. “They also extended invitations to meet in their respective countries. President Trump and President Xi look forward to further talks with very successful outcomes.”

“This is an important step,” said Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser on Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. “This will now pave the way for the engagement of the U.S. and Chinese governments on a wide range of issues.”

The policy in place since 1979 requires Washington to maintain only unofficial ties with Taiwan, the self-governing island that China claims as its own territory. China views any hint of official U.S. recognition of the island as anathema to China’s revival as a great Asian power.

At a briefing with reporters Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang declined to respond specifically to repeated questions on whether Mr. Trump’s affirmation of the “one China” policy was a condition Beijing set for the call. Mr. Lu said Beijing’s “one China” principle was the foundation of the two countries’ relationship.

Commenting on Mr. Trump’s call with Mr. Xi, Taiwan’s presidential spokesman Alex Huang said the island’s administration regards the U.S. as its most important ally and is grateful for Washington’s expression of support for Taiwan in recent days.

Mr. Trump’s move comes at a time of uncertainty in U.S.-China relations. Mr. Trump has accused Beijing of cheating in trade, criticized China’s military buildup in the South China Sea and said the country is doing too little to pressure North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs. He has accused China of manipulating its currency to keep its exports inexpensive and threatened a 45 percent tax on Chinese imports, potentially setting off a trade war.

Underscoring the uncertainties, Thursday’s call between the leaders came as the U.S. Pacific Command reported a Chinese KJ-200 early warning aircraft and a U.S. Navy patrol plane had an “unsafe” encounter over the South China Sea this week, without elaborating.

The Chinese defense ministry has not commented, but Beijing routinely complains about U.S. military surveillance missions near China.

This article is based in part on wire-service reports.


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