Kremlin calls for Trump-era reset

Donald Trump has talked about working more closely with Russia while China has threatened to cut the sale of big-brand US goods if Trump launches a trade war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and United States President-elect Trump have spoken on the phone and agreed on the need to normalise ties between Washington and Moscow, the Kremlin said.

The Kremlin also said that the two politicians agreed to "make provisions for a personal meeting". The presidential transition team in Washington said in a statement that it was Putin who called Trump to "offer his congratulations on winning a historic election".

Meanwhile, Chinese state television said that Xi Jinping, the Chinese President, had telephoned Trump and the two men agreed to meet in person "at an early date".

However, a nationalist newspaper with links to the Communist Party said China would act if Trump followed through with his presidential campaign threat to impose a 45 per cent tariff on Chinese imports.

"Trump, as a shrewd businessman, will not be so naive," the Global Times said. "A batch of Boeing orders will be replaced by Airbus. US auto and iPhone sales in China will suffer a setback, and US soybean and maize imports will be halted," it said in an editorial.

The newspaper said embarking on a trade war would be "naive" of Trump and would result in condemnation for "recklessness, ignorance and incompetence".

The relationship between Trump and Putin, though, sounded more friendly.

The Kremlin said that Putin and Trump noted "the extremely unsatisfactory state of Russian-US relations at present" and "declared the need for active joint work to normalise them".

Trump spoke admiringly of Putin during the campaign, praising him as a stronger leader than President Barack Obama and saying the two countries should join together to fight terrorists, particularly Isis (Islamic State) in Syria.

Those views put Trump at odds with many GOP defence hawks, who have praised his promise to increase military spending but are suspicious of Moscow and have denounced Russian actions in Eastern Europe, Ukraine and Syria. The offer of co-operation could immerse Trump in a deep controversy with the Pentagon, where military and civilian leaders have strongly opposed collaboration with Russia, particularly in Syria.

US intelligence officials have also expressed concern, noting that the Kremlin is believed to have been involved with hacking the email accounts of prominent Democrats, in hopes of injecting chaos in the US electoral process and perhaps swaying the outcome of the vote.

Trump's conversations with Putin and other world leaders came as protests continued for a sixth straight day in major cities and on college campuses over last week's election results, in which Trump won the electoral college but lost the popular vote to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

He also faced escalating criticism over his appointment of former Breitbart News head Stephen Bannon as chief strategist at the White House. Bannon has been denounced by a chorus of advocacy groups, commentators and congressional Democrats as a proponent of racist, anti-Semitic and misogynistic views.

"Bringing Steve Bannon into the White House is an alarming signal that President-elect Trump remains committed to the hateful and divisive vision that defined his campaign," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said. "There must be no sugarcoating the reality that a white nationalist has been named chief strategist for the Trump Administration."

Obama, in his first news conference since the election, declined to comment on Bannon and sought to reassure the country and the international community that Trump is committed to governing in a more realistic and pragmatic fashion than he displayed on the campaign trail. Obama said Trump pledged in their conversation last week to maintain US strategic relationships, including the Nato alliance.

At the same time, Obama urged the President-elect to reach out to groups representing minorities and women, many of whom have felt slighted by his candidacy.

- AFP, Washington Post

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