China’s Xi, speaking with Trump, calls on US to improve relations

US President Donald Trump (left) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping during a press conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov 9, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS, AFP) - Chinese President Xi Jinping told US President Donald Trump during a phone call on Friday (March 27) that he hopes the United States will take substantive action to improve bilateral ties, China's foreign ministry said.

Xi also told Trump that cooperation between their countries was the only correct choice and China was willing to support the United States in dealing with the coronavirus, according to an account of the conversation published by the Chinese ministry.

Xi said China and the US must "unite to fight" the deadly coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged the globe.

The call came amid a long-running war of words between Beijing and Washington over various issues including the coronavirus epidemic, which emerged in China late last year and has spread globally.

Trump and other top US officials have accused China of a lack of transparency on the virus, which has killed more than 24,000 globally, angering China.

Xi reiterated to Trump during the call that China had been open and transparent about the epidemic, which has infected more than 80,000 people in China.

Trump said on Twitter that he discussed the coronavirus outbreak "in great detail" with Xi.

He refrained from more combative words such as referring to the virus as a "Chinese virus", which he has been doing.

"China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the virus," Trump said. "We are working closely together. Much respect!"

Xi told Trump that China "wishes to continue sharing all information and experience with the US," said state broadcaster CCTV.

With 82,404 cases of infection, the United States has now surpassed virus hotspots China and Italy, according to a tracker run by Johns Hopkins University.

However in an earlier press conference, Mr Trump cast doubt on this, saying "you don't know what the numbers are in China".

However, he touched on a nasty row that has erupted in both countries over blame for the disease.

While Mr Trump has made a point of repeatedly calling Covid-19 the "Chinese virus", because it first blew up in the city of Wuhan, this has angered some in China and sparked accusations of race-baiting at home.

Mr Trump says he is pushing back because a Chinese foreign ministry official has led a conspiracy theory that US soldiers brought the virus to China.

"No it came from China," he underlined on Thursday, although adding, "if they feel so strongly about it, we'll see," he told reporters.

Mr Trump suggested the possibility that Mr Xi may "want to wait" until after the US presidential election in November "to see if Trump gets beaten".

According to Mr Trump his likely Democratic opponent Joe Biden would be Beijing's "best dream in the world" when it comes to negotiating.

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