President Donald Trump told China President Xi Jinping the U.S. would honor the “one China” policy months after Trump suggested he might use American policy on Taiwan as a bargaining chip between the two sides.
Trump “agreed at the request of President Xi,” to honor the policy, the White House said in a statement late Thursday.
The one China policy had been a source of friction between the U.S. and China since Trump’s election in November. Trump had questioned Washington’s policy on Taiwan, which shifted diplomatic recognition from self-governing Taiwan to China in 1979. He said it was open to negotiation.
China bristled at the comments Trump made. Trump told The Wall Street Journal in January that “everything is under negotiation, including ‘one China.’” The interview indicated at the time that Trump intended to shake up the relationship between Washington and Beijing, particularly on Taiwan.
Beijing was initially rattled over Trump’s call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, the first time an American president or president-elect had publicly spoken to Taiwan’s leader in nearly four decades.
Trump then said in a television interview that he didn't feel "bound by a one China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade."
Chinese media also went on the attack after Trump’s one China policy comments, calling the then-president-elect “as ignorant as a child.” The Global Times published a Chinese-language editorial headlined: "Trump, please listen clearly: 'One China' cannot be traded."
The White House sought to break the ice with China, saying Wednesday Trump wrote to President Xi wishing the Chinese people greetings for the new year and the Lantern Festival.
"President Trump stated that he looks forward to working with President Xi to develop a constructive relationship that benefits both the United States and China," the statement said.
China said it appreciated Trump’s holiday greeting. When asked if Xi felt snubbed that Trump called other world leaders, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said, “This kind of remark is meaningless.”
Up until Wednesday, Trump had been the only U.S. president in recent years not to have issued greetings when the holiday fell on Jan. 28, triggering speculation in China as to whether it was an oversight or an intentional slight.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.