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Trump US president denies 'folding' over ZTE in China trade talks

President Donald Trump on Wednesday denied caving to China over US sanctions on the telecoms equipment maker ZTE.

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Chinese telecoms equipment maker ZTE has been hit with US sanctions play

Chinese telecoms equipment maker ZTE has been hit with US sanctions

(AFP/File)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday denied caving to China over US sanctions on the telecoms equipment maker ZTE.

The comments followed Trump's surprise announcement on Sunday that the administration was exploring ways to soften the blow from a ban on exporting crucial US technology to the company, which Washington says violated sanctions and misled US officials.

"Nothing has happened with ZTE except as it pertains to the larger trade deal," Trump said on Twitter.

"China has seen our demands. There has been no folding as the media would love people to believe. The meetings haven't even started yet!"

Trump's remarks followed an AFP report last week that a Chinese state enterprise was pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into an Indonesian real estate development linked to the American president's business empire, prompting questions of possible quid-pro-quo for ZTE.

Trump's latest Twitter salvo comes at a delicate moment for US trade policy, as the United States works on several fronts to resolve disputes with major trading partners.

ZTE was fined $1.2 billion in March 2017 but last month it was hit with a steeper sanction, prohibiting US firms from supplying it with needed parts after the Commerce Department found the company had lied multiple times and failed to take actions against employees responsible for sanctions violations on Iran and North Korea.

The company faced collapse as a result and Trump said Sunday he and Chinese President Xi Jinping were exploring ways to get the company "back into business fast."

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross also said Monday the US was looking at "alternative remedies" for the April sanctions.

A Chinese delegation was due to hold talks in Washington this week, with both sides threatening to impose massive tariffs on each other's exports.

Washington accuses Beijing of massive state intervention in key sectors, theft of US know-how, among other alleged unfair trade practices.

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