Beijing/Washington (Reuters): American President Donald Trump has agreed to respect the "One China " policy during a telephonic conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, taking steps to improve ties after angering Beijing by earlier conversations with the Taiwanese leader.

Trump further explained Beijing over the self-ruled island in December saying the United States did not necessarily have to stick to the policy , under which Washington acknowledges China 's position that Taiwan is part of "One China ".

Both the leaders had not spoken by telephone since Trump took office on Jan. 20.

According to a White House statement, Trump and Xi had a lengthy phone conversation on Thursday night Washington time. It came hours before Trump is to play host to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House and later, at his Palm Beach, Florida, retreat.

The statement further said "President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our 'One China ' policy ."

The statement marked a return to a more traditional U.S. policy after Trump had told the Wall Street Journal last month that the "One China " policy was up for negotiation.

The two sides also signaled that with the "One China " issue resolved, they could have more normal relations.

"Representatives of the United States and China will engage in discussions and negotiations on various issues of mutual interest," the statement said.

The statement cited Xi as saying "I believe that the United States and China are cooperative partners, and through joint efforts we can push bilateral relations to a historic new high."

The White House described the call as "extremely cordial" with both leaders expressing best wishes to their peoples.

The statement said, "They also extended invitations to meet in their respective countries. President Trump and President Xi look forward to further talks with very successful outcomes."

Earlier, Trump said in December that the United States did not necessarily have to stick to the “one China” policy , by which Washington acknowledges China’s position that it has sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan.