U.S. President Donald Trump has agreed to honor the so-called One China policy, the White House announced on Thursday evening, months after the American leader stated that he could drop the policy unless China made a deal with the United States.
Trump made the concession on Thursday evening during a "lengthy" telephone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, marking their first conversation since November 14, less than a week after Trump won the presidential election.
"The two leaders discussed numerous topics and President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our 'one China' policy," the White House said in a statement. "Representatives of the United States and China will engage in discussions and negotiations on various issues of mutual interest."
The Chinese government did not immediately provide its own readout of the call, but the statement from the White House called the conversation "extremely cordial," noting that both leaders extended best wishes to the people of each other's countries.
News of the concession came just hours after U.S. officials told the New York Times that they believed Xi would not talk with Trump until the American leader agreed to publicly commit to the "One China" policy, which China considers to be non-negotiable and a requirement for bilateral ties.
Trump sparked controversy in December when he took a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. The call marked the first conversation between a leader of Taiwan and a U.S. president or president-elect since the U.S. cut diplomatic relations in 1979, when the American government recognized the People's Republic of China to include Taiwan.
The controversy in December escalated when Trump remarked during a TV interview that, unless China was willing to make concessions on trade and political issues such as North Korea, he would see no reason for the United States to continue to uphold the One-China policy.
"I fully understand the one-China policy but I don't know why we have to be bound by one-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade," the then-president-elect said during an interview with Fox News.
In an editorial published just hours after the interview aired, China's government mouthpiece media urged Trump to understand that the One-China policy could not be used for bargaining, adding that, in the field of diplomacy, the president-elect is "ignorant like a child."
China considers Taiwan to be an 'inalienable' part of its territory even though the island has governed itself since the end of the civil war in 1949. China typically uses the One-China policy as a requirement for diplomatic relations and its government had warned the U.S. that its bilateral relations were at stake.
Despite not having a formal diplomatic relationship, the United States maintains mostly low-level diplomatic contacts with Taiwan through a representative office in Taipei. China fiercely criticized the U.S. in 2010 when it sold weapons to Taiwan, prompting China to suspend a number of military exchange programs.
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