Trump shrugs off fuss over Taiwan call

2016-12-03 21:14
(Evan Vucci, AP)

(Evan Vucci, AP)

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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 US severed diplomatic ties with the self-governing island in 1979 but has maintained close unofficial relations and a commitment to support its defence.

Renegade province

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, according to Hong Kong's Phoenix TV.

"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. Chinese officials said they lodged a complaint with the US and re-iterated a commitment to seeking "reunification" with the island, which they consider a renegade province.

After the phone conversation 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 US 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 defence relations. The US is required by law to provide Taiwan with weapons to maintain its defence.

Since 2009, the Obama administration has approved $14bn in arms sales to Taiwan.

Flout diplomatic conventions

The call was the starkest example yet of how Trump has flouted diplomatic conventions since he won the November 8 election. He has apparently undertaken calls with foreign leaders without guidance customarily given by the State Department, which oversees US diplomacy.

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

Taiwan split from the Chinese mainland in 1949. The US policy acknowledges the Chinese view over sovereignty, but considers Taiwan's status as unsettled.


Read more on:    donald trump  |  china  |  taiwan  |  us

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