Marking a major shift in his policy, US President Donald Trump told his Chinese counterpart that he will honour the "One China Policy" that requires the US administration to maintain only unofficial relations with Taiwan – officially the Republic of China.

Trump made the statement during a call with President Xi Jinping on Friday (10 February Japan time). The call followed a letter from Trump sent to Xi on Wednesday (8 February) to convey belated wishes on the Chinese Lunar New Year and Lantern Festival that was celebrated over a week ago.

In the letter, Trump had stressed on forging a "constructive relationship" with China. He reportedly reiterated his stand during the phone call with Xi a day later.

According to the Associated Press, China's state broadcaster CCTV and the White House both said that the two leaders discussed many topics, with Xi saying that he was keen on working with Trump to improve bilateral ties and to bring "more fruitful gains for the benefit of our two peoples and those in every country".

The White House said the conversation between the two leaders was "extremely cordial" and they invited each other to visit their respective countries to continue bilateral discussions.

Xi "praised" Trump's affirmation of the "One China Policy" – the issue that triggered tensions between the two countries in the past two months.

Donald Trump Xi Jinping
US President Donald Trump (R) told Chinese President Xi Jinping during a call that he will respect and honour US' "One China Policy" that requires the country to consider Taiwan as part of China - File photo Reuters

The controversy over the policy began when Trump spoke to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in early December 2016. The call angered China, which warned Trump against "disrespecting" the long-running US policy of considering Taiwan as part of Chinese territories.

However, Trump fuelled the tensions by hinting that he might deviate from the old policy. Trump's denial prompted harsh statements and threats from Beijing to the US as well as Taiwan. The issue further heated up when Tsai transited through New York during an official tour of Central America in January, just ahead of Trump's inauguration. It was speculated that she would meet Trump, but only a delegation met some officials from the Trump administration.