China commends Trump's letter to Xi, downplays phone 'snub'

China commends Trump's letter to Xi, downplays phone 'snub'

China today "highly commended" Donald Trump's letter to Xi Jinping, saying interactions play an "irreplaceable role" in bilateral ties, even as it dismissed suggestions that the US President has snubbed his Chinese counterpart by not speaking to him so far after assuming office.

"Chinese side received the letter. We highly commend President Trump for expressing festive greetings to Chinese President and people," spokesman for China's foreign Ministry Lu Kang told a media briefing here.

Lu parried questions whether China consider it a snub as Trump has not so far spoken to Xi even though he dialled 18 world leaders after taking over office on January 20. "There is no need for me to comment on this kind of remarks.

Interactions between China and US play an irreplaceable role in bilateral ties," Lu said. After becoming US President, Trump has spoken to nearly two dozen world leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, Trump has not yet spoken to Xi.

Trump wrote the letter to Xi who had written a congratulatory letter to him soon after he was sworn-in as US President. "President Donald J Trump provided a letter to President Xi Jinping of China, thanking President Xi for his congratulatory letter on the occasion of President Trump's inauguration and wishing the Chinese people a happy Lantern Festival and prosperous Year of the Rooster," White House said.

In the letter, Trump said he looks forward to working with Xi to develop a constructive relationship that benefits both the US and China. At the media briefing, Lu said that since Trump inauguration, the two sides are maintaining close interactions with each other.

To another question whether it was lack of respect and understanding on the part of Trump to not greet Xi and Chinese people on their New Year which began on February 28, Lu said "you are reading too much into that. You must understand the meaning of lantern festival in China."     

Meanwhile, a report in state-run Global Times said that while Trump's letter to Xi is "encouraging" China "must focus on real actions". "Since Trump has made a lot of provocative statements toward China, this letter is a good signal but we still need to observe his real actions," the daily website quoted Diao Daming, a research fellow at the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences as saying.

"After Trump was inaugurated as US president, he spoke with many countries' leaders but not China, which led some people to believe that he might intend to keep his distance from China and even raised concerns about future conflicts, even though his daughter appeared in the Chinese Embassy in the US on February 2 to participate in a Chinese New Year's celebration event," Chu Yin, an associate professor at the University of International Relations told the daily.

"He sent a letter rather than made a phone call, so Trump may still want to keep his distance from China, but a friendly signal is better than a provocation. China can take this as a chance to help Trump to shape his view on dealing with China which is good for both sides," Chu said.

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