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President Trump said he would honor the United States' longstanding “one China” policy during a Thursday night phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, an effort to ease diplomatic tensions between the two powers.
The two leaders spoke by phone, the White House said in a statement, their first phone conversation since Trump’s inauguration.
“The two leaders discussed numerous topics and President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our ‘one China’ policy,” according to the White House.
The policy dictates that Washington recognizes Beijing as the only official government of China and will not establish formal relations with its rival, Taiwan.
The White House described the Trump-Xi call as "lengthy" and "extremely cordial," and said both men had extended invitations to visit their respective countries.
Trump angered the Chinese government by accepting a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen after his election, breaking with long-standing protocol. An American president or president-elect had not spoken with Taiwan’s leader since 1979.
It came after Trump campaigned on a promise to take a tougher approach against China on issues ranging from trade to China's military buildup in the South China Sea and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
Just more than a month before he took office, Trump suggested he might use the “one China” policy as a bargaining chip to pressure China to change its behavior.
"I don't know why we have to be bound by a ‘one China' policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade," Trump said in a December interview with “Fox News Sunday.”
Abandoning the policy would have been seen as a major affront to Beijing, which sees the “one China” policy as the cornerstone of its relationship with the U.S.
China considers Taiwan to be a breakaway region. The current policy was put in place under President Jimmy Carter in order to establish formal ties with China.
Trump’s call with Xi was made public shortly after The New York Times published a report describing China as "stung" by Trump's call with Taiwan.
Officials told the Times that Xi would not agree to speak with Trump until after his public acknowledgment of the policy, which in effect cuts off official governmental ties with Taiwan.
The two leaders last spoke on Nov. 14, days after Trump was elected president.
In recent days, there were signs the White House was trying to smooth over tensions with China.
Trump sent a belated letter to Xi on Wednesday wishing him a happy Lunar New Year. His daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, who is a senior adviser to the president, last week attended the Chinese Embassy’s Lunar New Year’s reception in Washington.
The call came one day before Trump is set to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Washington, after which they will fly on Air Force One to Trump's Mara-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., where they will play golf.
The visit is expected to be closely watched in China, which is a major regional rival of Japan’s.