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Trump gives Chinese President Xi Jinping a phone call, agrees to honor 'one China' policy

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (right)

U.S. President Donald Trump changed tack and agreed to honor the longstanding "one China" policy during a phone call with China's leader Xi Jinping vowing to maintain the status quo he had previously threatened to shake up, according to a White House statement.

The call came after Trump sent Xi Jinping a letter on Thursday in which Trump says that he is looking forward to working with the Chinese President "to develop a constructive relationship" that benefits both countries.

Prior to his inauguration in December, Trump angered China by speaking with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen over the phone, breaking with long-standing US diplomatic protocol. Later, the then president-elect doubled-down by stating that the "one China" policy was up for negotiation, seeming to forecast his intentions to use the policy as a bargaining chip to make a better deal with China over economic issues.

"President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our 'one China' policy," the statement said.

A spokesman for Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said in a statement it was in Taiwan's interest to maintain good relations with the United States and China.

The White House statement said the leaders of the world's two largest economies had held a "lengthy" and "extremely cordial" telephone call in which "numerous topics" were discussed, while it does not mention if any of these topics dealt with issues that Trump frequently and loudly brought up during the campaign, such as China "manipulating" its currency, "stealing" American jobs, and generally "raping" America.

In the phone conversation, the first between the two since Trump took office in January, Xi offered his congratulations on Trump’s election and thanked him for his letter extending holiday greetings to the Chinese people, who are celebrating the Lunar New Year and today’s Lantern Festival.

Xi said he greatly appreciated Trump’s willingness to expand China-US cooperation and develop a constructive bilateral relationship that will benefit the two countries and the international community.

The two leaders also agreed to maintain close contacts to exchange opinions on issues of common concern in a timely manner. Both of them expressed their eagerness to hold a meeting at an early date.

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