China’s Xi warns Trump of ‘negative factors’ in US relations

Donald Trump calls Xi Jinping and Shinzo Abe to discuss relations with North Korea

China's president Xi Jinping warned US president Donald Trump of "negative factors" harming relations between the two countries as tensions rose again over a list of thorny regional issues, especially what the US leader sees as Beijing's failure to rein in North Korea.

Mr Trump telephoned both Mr Xi and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to discuss ways of dealing with the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula ahead of the G20 summit in Hamburg on July 7th and 8th.

Mr Trump encouraged warmer relations with Mr Xi as he sought to enlist his assistance in encouraging China's allies in Pyongyang to abandon their nuclear ambitions. However, in recent days he appears to have become impatient and said those efforts have not borne fruit, tweeting that his bid to secure a more robust approach by China had "not worked out".

China has become irritated after the US resumed its critical stance on Beijing's claims in the South China Sea, describing the sailing of the warship USS Stethem within the territorial seas limit of Triton Island in the disputed Paracels as "a serious provocation".

The US also sold €860 million worth of arms to regional rival Taiwan, and imposed unilateral sanctions against a small Chinese bank, the Bank of Dandong, over its dealings with North Korea.

‘One-China policy’

"The Chinese president also said that his country attaches great importance to Trump's reaffirmation that the United States will adhere to the one-China policy" that rules out formal contacts with Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Mr Trump and Mr Xi are expected to hold a bilateral meeting at the G20 that could be a more fraught event than previously expected.

There was a more positive tone in the Xinhua story when it quoted Mr Xi saying that “important results have been achieved in bilateral relations” between China and the US since the Mar-a-Lago meeting between the two leaders.

At a regular foreign ministry briefing, spokesperson Geng Shuang said it was normal to encounter "some issues in the process of developing the bilateral relationship".

“We believe that the significance of our bilateral relationship has already exceeded the bilateral scope and is exerting important influence on the development of the whole world,” Mr Geng said.

In his 35-minute phone call with Mr Abe, Mr Trump reiterated their long-held stance to increase pressure on North Korea.

"They reaffirmed that the United States-Japan alliance stands ready to defend and respond to any threat or action taken by North Korea," the White House said in a statement.

Mr Abe praised Mr Trump for imposing sanctions on the Bank of Dandong, which cuts the bank off from the US financial system.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing