Xi tells Trump ‘hard-won’ easing of Korean tensions must continue

Chinese leader phones US president to say momentum needs to be continued

President Xi Jinping has told his US counterpart Donald Trump the "hard-won" easing of tensions on the Korean peninsula must continue, and called for joint efforts to keep the momentum going.

“There are some positive changes and related parties should work jointly to keep up the hard-won momentum for the easing of the situation on the Korean Peninsula and create conditions for the resumption of talks,” the Chinese leader said in a phone call with Mr Trump.

His remarks were quoted by the official Xinhua news agency.

The White House said Mr Trump and Mr Xi both expressed hope that the resumption of dialogue between North and South might prompt a change in Pyongyang’s “destructive behavior” but Mr Trump also committed to sustaining the maximum pressure campaign.


The phone call comes at a time when there are tentative signs of rapprochement between the two Koreas. The Koreas will hold talks this week about plans for a delegation to take part in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea next month.

The North will also send an orchestra to play in the South, the first time musicians have crossed the border since 2002.

Mr Xi said denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and safeguarding peace and stability in the region were in accord with the common interests of all sides and called for the international community to stay united.

"China is ready to continue its joint efforts with the United States and other members of the international community to achieve progress that would finally lead to a proper resolution of the issue," Mr Xi was quoted as saying.

The two leaders also addressed matters of trade. Mr Xi said China-US relations maintained overall stability and achieved “significant progress” in 2017.

Relations between the world's biggest and second-biggest economies have been less than warm, as Mr Trump has regularly tweeted that China is not using its influence enough in North Korea to help ease regional tensions over the North's nuclear programme. He has also regularly taken aim at China's trade surplus with the US.

However, Mr Trump’s visit to China in November was considered a success.

Mr Trump’s recent tax reform, which could lure US firms and investment back from China, is being closely watched in Beijing.

Mr Xi said he wanted to “make the cake of co-operation bigger”.

The US and Canada are due to co-host a meeting of foreign ministers in Vancouver on Tuesday to work out how to intensify diplomatic efforts to keep the pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear programme.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

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