June 18, 2018

Trump backs One China policy in ‘cordial’ call with Xi

g6US President Donald Trump has agreed to honour the so-called “One China” policy in a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the White House said.
The One China policy is the diplomatic acknowledgement that there is only one Chinese government.
Mr Trump had placed the long-standing policy in doubt when he spoke with Taiwan’s president in December.
The move was a major break from traditional protocol and provoked an official complaint from China.
The telephone conversation was the first between the two since Mr Trump took office on 20 January, though the new US president has called several other national leaders.
The White House said a wide range of issues were discussed during the call, which it characterised as “extremely cordial”.
The two leaders had invited each other to visit, it said, and looked forward to further talks.
A statement from Beijing said China appreciated Mr Trump’s acknowledgement of the One China policy.
The two nations were “co-operative partners, and through joint efforts we can push bilateral relations to a historic new high”, it quoted Mr Xi as saying.
The telephone call followed a letter sent by Mr Trump to Mr Xi on Thursday – the president’s first direct approach to the Chinese leader.
Mr Trump caused serious concern in Beijing when he accepted a telephone call from Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen.
Though the US is Taiwan’s main military ally, no US president or president-elect had spoken directly to a Taiwanese leader for decades.
Under the One China policy, the US recognises and has formal ties with China rather than the island of Taiwan, which China sees as a breakaway province to be reunified with the mainland one day.
Mr Trump then appeared to suggest that US policy could shift, saying: “I don’t know why we have to be bound by a One China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.”
The content of the phone call between President Trump and President Xi will be celebrated in Beijing as signalling a return to the traditional framework of the US-China relationship.
Three weeks into the new American administration, after a score of phone calls between Mr Trump and other world leaders, China’s absence from the list was becoming ever more conspicuous.
Two months ago it looked as though Mr Trump might be willing to reshape the relationship between the world’s two biggest economies. Not only did he warn that he would consider 45% tariffs against China and brand Beijing a currency manipulator; from Beijing’s point of view, far more shocking was his willingness to take a phone call from the president of Taiwan and his suggestion that the status of Taiwan might become a bargaining chip in negotiation for some other American objective.
But many Chinese citizens see Taiwan as the last piece in China’s territorial jigsaw. Any further move towards independence and international recognition for the island would have represented a dangerous humiliation for Mr Xi.
With the presidential phone call, Beijing can draw a line under such fears. Three weeks in, it has won a clear and unequivocal commitment from the Trump administration to honour the One China policy. And after all the threats and promises Mr Trump made about China on the campaign trail, it is not clear what, if anything, the Trump administration has won in return.
Grey line
The new president and his officials have also caused consternation in Beijing with combative comments on trade practises and China’s military build up in the South China Sea.
During his nomination hearing, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US should block access to islands being built by China in disputed waters.
To date Beijing has responded cautiously, expressing “serious concern” about Mr Trump’s position on the One China policy and pledging to “defend its rights” in the South China Sea.
But state media outlets have been less restrained and have issued strongly-worded rebukes, blasting Mr Trump for “playing with fire” on the Taiwan issue.

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