China foreign minister says US ties face new uncertainties

A U.S. flag is tweaked ahead of a news conference between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing on January 27, 2016.
Jacquelyn Martin | AFP | Getty Images

China-U.S. relations face new uncertainties but with mutual respect for core interests they will remain stable, China's foreign minister said, adding one individual will not impede ties, a likely reference to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.

President Xi Jinping spoke with Trump soon after he won last month's election, but Beijing has been unsettled by Trump's subsequent call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, suggestions Trump may change U.S. policy towards self-ruled Taiwan, and Trump's threats to impose tariffs on Chinese imports.

In an interview with the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily carried on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the Xi-Trump call was a positive sign for a smooth transition in Sino-U.S. ties.

"Of course, going forward China-U.S. relations will face new complexities and uncertain factors," Wang said.

"But 'thick mountains could not stop the river from flowing into the sea'," he added, quoting an ancient Chinese poem Xi had cited in June at a high-level China-U.S. forum, meaning all rivers have to travel a meandering course before getting to their final destination.

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"Only if China and the United States respect each and give consideration to other's core interests and key concerns can there be long-term, stable cooperation, and effect win-win mutual benefit," Wang said.

"This is a historical trend that can't be altered by an individual's will, and is the correct direction for the development of China-U.S. ties," he added, without mentioning Trump by name.

One of the priorities for next year is for a smooth transition in relations between the two countries to "open new cooperative prospects" and have a more stable, healthy framework for relations between the great powers, Wang said.

The disputed South China Sea could also be an area of tension with the new Trump administration.

China this week returned a U.S. underwater drone taken by one of its naval vessels in the South China Sea last week, an incident which prompted Trump to accuse China of stealing it.

Wang said defending China's sovereignty was a "sacred mission" for China's diplomatic work.

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