In turn, Trump lavished praise on leaders such as Chinese President Xi Jinping, even suggesting that the USA trade imbalance with China, something he said along the campaign trail was the equivalent of China "raping" the United States, was not China's fault, but the fault of past U.S. leadership.
Trump asked about the arrests during his two-day visit to China last week, which happened to begin one day after the three players were arrested for allegedly shoplifting sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store.
"What they did was unfortunate", Trump said.
President Trump said Tuesday he personally intervened with Chinese President Xi Jinping to seek the release of three USA college basketball players detained on shoplifting charges in China.
The Post reports that charges against the players have been reduced, and that the case is closing in on a resolution. On Monday, ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that three American men were being investigated in the eastern city of Hangzhou for alleged theft and that China and the USA were in contact over the matter.
USA appeals court allows Donald Trump's travel ban to take partial effect
Judges have said the president's bans either violated immigration law or were unconstitutional in discriminating against Muslims. The Ninth Circuit court will hear arguments on December 6 on whether to keep or permanently overturn Watson's stay.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed in an email to the newspaper that Trump raised the issue with Xi. The players were also not permitted to fly home with the team.
U.S. officials said the State Department normally takes over cases of American citizens when they are arrested overseas and that the U.S. Embassy in Beijing knows the case is ongoing. "And it will be a very complete statement as to trade, as to North Korea, as to a lot of other things".
Three UCLA basketball players were arrested November 7 in Hangzhou, China, on suspicion of shoplifting.
The State Department typically handles cases of Americans arrested overseas.
Trump learned about the details of the cases from aides, including Kelly, said the official familiar with the internal discussions.