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China-US relations hit by 'negative factors'

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Handle Taiwan issues according to 'One China' principle, Xi tells Trump

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping told US counterpart Donald Trump yesterday that Sino-US relations have been hit by "negative factors", in a phone call following days of US actions that have vexed Beijing.

Mr Trump infuriated Beijing last week when he approved a US$1.3 billion (S$1.79 billion) arms sales to Taiwan, a self-governed island that China considers a breakaway province awaiting reunification.

The US administration also imposed sanctions on a Chinese bank accused of laundering North Korean cash, voiced concern about freedom in semi-autonomous Hong Kong and placed the country on a list of the world's worst human trafficking offenders.

The latest irritant came on Sunday when a warship, the USS Stethem, sailed less than 12 nautical miles from tiny Triton Island in the Paracel Islands archipelago, which is claimed by China as well as Taiwan and Vietnam, a US official told AFP.

The series of moves have marked a sharp reversal from the friendly tone struck by Mr Trump since his meeting with Mr Xi at the US president's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in April.

In their phone call, Mr Xi acknowledged that Sino-US relations "have achieved important results" since that meeting, the foreign ministry said.

But Mr Xi also warned that relations "have been affected by some negative factors".

He said he hoped the US president will "properly handle" Taiwan issues in accordance with the "One China" principle, AFP reported.

The Chinese leader insisted that the two sides should follow the "consensus" reached at Mar-a-Lago and adhere to the principle of mutual respect.

Mr Trump has pressed Mr Xi to use China's diplomatic and economic clout over North Korea to pressure the Stalinist state to abandon its nuclear programme, but the US leader tweeted last month that Beijing's efforts had failed.

The phone call came hours after the "freedom of navigation" operation in the South China Sea, an operation meant to assert the right to sail in disputed waters.

The move prompted China to deploy military vessels and fighter jets, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement late Sunday, calling the US operation a "serious political and military provocation".

It was the second operation of its kind carried out by the US since Mr Trump took office.

The latest US exercise came as Beijing continues efforts to cement its claim to nearly all of the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Mr Xi set off on a visit to Russia yesterday, stressing the grave threat a US anti-missile system in South Korea poses to both Chinese and Russian interests.

China has repeatedly stated its opposition to the US Thermal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system and has called for its deployment to be stopped, and the missiles already installed to be removed, Reuters reported.

China says the system's powerful radar can probe deep into its territory, undermining its security and a regional balance while doing nothing to stop North Korea in its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them.

China and Russia would take "necessary measures", either together or independently, to protect their interests, Mr Xi said, without elaborating, according to Xinhua.

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