BEIJING – Chinese President Xi Jinping warned President Donald Trump on Monday that “some negative factors” are hurting U.S.-China relations, as tensions flare anew over a slew of long-standing sore points.
Xi’s comments in a phone call with Trump follow Beijing’s displeasure over U.S. arms sales to rival Taiwan, U.S. sanctions against a Chinese bank over its dealings with North Korea and, most recently, the sailing of a U.S. destroyer within the territorial seas limit of a Chinese-claimed island in the South China Sea.
Beijing was also miffed after the State Department gave Beijing a dismal grade last week in a new human trafficking report.
As reported by state media, Xi told Trump in their call that China expected Washington to continue managing relations on the basis of the “one China” principle that rules out formal contacts with Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory.
“Xi Jinping emphasized that, since my meeting with the president at Mar-a-Lago, China-U.S. relations have achieved important outcomes,” state broadcaster CCTV reported, referring to Xi’s meeting with Trump in Florida in April. “At the same time, bilateral relations have been affected by some negative factors. China has expressed its position to the U.S.”
Seeking to lighten the message slightly, Xi also said China-U.S. relations had achieved “important outcomes” since the Florida meeting.
It’s unclear whether any of those issues will come up in discussions at the G-20 summit in Germany at which Trump and Xi are expected to hold a bilateral meeting.
But it now appears that China is pushing back against the U.S. pressure, setting the stage for a potential confrontation.
China’s foreign ministry accused the U.S. of violating Chinese sovereignty and disrupting “peace, security and order of the relevant waters” after the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Stethem sailed Sunday within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of tiny Triton island, which is claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The defense ministry issued a similar statement Monday, saying it would beef up patrols and take precautions commensurate with the threat level to safeguard “national sovereignty and security.”
Trump and his top aides have done little to hide their irritation over what they see as the reluctance by China, North Korea’s main economic partner, to tighten the screws on Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs.
Until lately, American officials had been describing China as a partner in their strategy to prevent North Korea from developing the ability to strike the U.S. mainland with nuclear weapons.
However, last month Trump hinted at his loss of patience, tweeting that his bid to secure a tougher Chinese approach “has not worked out.”