Xi urges Trump to improve US-China ties amid coronavirus feud

Phone call between two leaders comes after Beijing and Washington trade blame over pandemic.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart, Donald Trump, have spoken by telephone, suggesting a possible thaw in frayed ties following an escalating war of words aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic.

In Friday’s call, Xi told Trump that he hoped the United States will take substantive action to improve bilateral relations, China’s foreign ministry said.

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Xi also said that cooperation between the countries that have the world’s two largest economies was the only correct choice, and China was willing to support the US in dealing with the new coronavirus, according to an account of the conversation published by the ministry.

The discussion came after weeks of bitter exchanges between Beijing and Washington over various issues including the coronavirus which emerged in China late last year and has spread globally.

Trump and other top US officials have angered China by accusing it of a lack of transparency on the virus, which has killed more than 24,000 people globally.

Chinese officials have also taken to Twitter to blame the US for potentially bringing the coronavirus to the US via its military, perpetuating a conspiracy theory that has been circulating online, without providing any evidence.

Xi reiterated to Trump during the call that his country had been open and transparent about the pandemic and offered support to the US, which has now passed China for the most confirmed coronavirus cases.

For his part, Trump said on Twitter that he discussed the coronavirus pandemic “in great detail” with Xi.

He refrained from more combative words such as referring to the virus as a “Chinese virus”, as he has done in the past, drawing strong criticism and facing allegations of “fuelling bigotry”.

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

Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu, reporting from Beijing, said the phone call came as a surprise, but also offered some relief at a time when countries worldwide were battling the spread of COVID-19, the highly infectious disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Yu reported that Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus in China, “is slowing going back to normal” after an extended period of lockdown, and that some restrictions have been lifted.

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