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Trump shrugs off fuss over Taiwan call

01:58 AM December 05, 2016
President-elect Donald Trump  AP

President-elect Donald Trump AP

BEIJING — President-elect Donald Trump is unapologetic about roiling diplomatic waters with his decision to speak on the phone with Taiwan’s leader, a breach of long-standing tradition that risks enmity from China.

The United States has severed diplomatic ties with the self-governing island since 1979 but has maintained close unofficial relations and a commitment to support its defense.

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Trump’s conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen drew an irritated, although understated, response from China, as Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Saturday that the contact was “just a small trick by Taiwan” that he believed would not change US policy toward China.

“The one-China policy is the cornerstone of the healthy development of China-US relations and we hope this political foundation will not be interfered with or damaged,” Wang was quoted as saying.

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Chinese officials said they had lodged a formal complaint with the United States and reiterated a commitment to seeking “reunification” with the island, which they consider a renegade province.

After the phone conversation on Friday, Trump tweeted that Tsai “CALLED ME.”

He also groused about the reaction to the call: “Interesting how the US sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.”

The United States shifted diplomatic recognition to China from Taiwan in 1979. But the governments in Washington and Taipei have maintained close unofficial ties and deep economic and defense relations.

The United States is required by law to provide Taiwan with weapons to maintain its defense. Since 2009, the Obama administration has approved $14 billion in arms sales to Taiwan.

No guidance from state dep’t

The call was the starkest example yet of how Trump has flouted diplomatic conventions since he won the Nov. 8 election.

He has apparently undertaken calls with foreign leaders without guidance customarily given by the Department of State, which oversees US diplomacy.

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“President-elect Trump is just shooting from the hip, trying to take phone calls of congratulatory messages from leaders around the world without consideration for the implications,” said Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Over the decades, the status of Taiwan has been one of the most sensitive issues in US-China relations.

China regards Taiwan as part of its territory to be retaken by force, if necessary, if it seeks independence.

China would regard any recognition of a Taiwanese leader as a head of state as unacceptable.

Taiwanese newspapers ran banner headlines on Sunday about the call, and two noted on their front pages that Trump referred to Tsai as “the president of Taiwan,” a formulation that would be a huge shift in US policy and infuriate China. —AP

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TAGS: Bonnie Glaser, Donald Trump, One China Policy, Tsai Ing-wen, US-China relations, US-Taiwan relations, Wang Yi
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