U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has spoken by telephone with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, transition officials say, breaking decades of diplomatic protocol in a move that is likely to infuriate China.
Trump congratulated Tsai for becoming the island’s president earlier this year. “During the discussion, they noted the close economic, political, and security ties exists (sic) between Taiwan and the United States,” Trump’s team said in a brief statement.
Other details about the call were not immediately available, but the move risks a diplomatic dispute with China, which considers Taiwan to be an ‘inalienable’ part its territory even though the island has governed itself since the end of the civil war in 1949.
“The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action, of historic proportions,” Evan Medeiros, the former former Asia director at the White House national security council, told the Financial Times.
Medeiros added: “Regardless if it was deliberate or accidental, this phone call will fundamentally change China’s perceptions of Trump’s strategic intentions for the negative. With this kind of move, Trump is setting a foundation of enduring mistrust and strategic competition for US-China relations.”
Friday’s conversation is believed to be the first between a U.S. president or president-elect and a leader of Taiwan since the United States cut diplomatic relations in 1979, when the American government recognized the People’s Republic of China to include Taiwan.
Ever since, the United States has maintained mostly low-level diplomatic contacts with Taiwan through a representative office in Taipei. China fiercely criticized the United States in early 2010 when it sold weapons to Taiwan, prompting China to suspend a number of military exchange programs.
In addition to the unexpected call, the Taipei Times reported that Idaho Republican Party Chairman Stephen Yates is scheduled to meet with President Tsai. Yates confirmed to BNO News that he will travel to Taiwan next week but said he did not know that the meeting with Tsai had been confirmed. He added that Trump’s call was a “courtesy, not a policy.”
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately return a request for comment, but several politicians were quick to question Trump’s move.
Ari Fleischer tweeted that he wasn’t allowed to refer to the government “of” Taiwan when he served as White House press secretary under President George W. Bush. “In summit meetings with China, Chinese leaders began by asking [the president] to restate one-China policy. Trump is changing how we do business with China,” he said, adding: “China will go nuts.”
Earlier this week, Trump sparked anger in India after the Pakistani government released an unusual statement about Trump’s call with Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif. Trump was said to have praised the prime minister and offered to “play any role that you want me to play” to address outstanding issues.
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