SINO-US RELATIONS
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Sino-US relations

Donald Trump’s call to Xi Jinping ‘a relief’ for Taiwan

Analysts say US president’sdecision to honour the one-China policy eases concerns on the island that it will become a bargaining chip for Beijing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 February, 2017, 5:31pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 February, 2017, 3:06am

Taipei said on Friday it was well aware of the phone conversation between President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump, in which the US leader said he would honour the one-China policy.

Taiwan-based analysts said Trump’s reassurance helped ease concern that the island would become Washington’s bargaining chip with Beijing.

“Taiwan and the US both maintained close contact and communication [over the phone call] and have maintained a good ‘zero surprise’ approach [in dealing with each other],” Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang said in a statement.

“Maintaining good Taiwan-US and cross-strait relations [with Beijing] fulfils our national interest and is key for regional peace and stability,” he said.

Trump reaffirms one-China policy in surprise phone call with Xi Jinping

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council on Friday said Taiwan took note of the balanced development of relations with Washington and Beijing. It called on Washington to continue to support Taiwan’s policy to maintain cross-strait peace and stability.

“We also urge mainland China to deal with us in a positive manner, communicate with us pragmatically to resolve disputes and seek maximum room for cooperation, which are common expectations from people of the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and from [players] in the region.”

The White House confirmed that in a lengthy phone talk with Xi, Trump agreed – at Xi’s request – to honour the one-China policy that has seen Washington maintain only unofficial ties with Taiwan, which Beijing has long considered a province subject to eventual reunification.

Beijing’s state media reported that Xi “praised” Trump’s affirmation of the policy and said Beijing was willing to work with the United States to enhance ties and bring “more fruitful gains for the benefit of our two peoples and those in every country”.

Trump’s reported comments were a departure from an interview in early December when he was quoted as saying he didn’t feel “bound” by the decades-old one-China policy unless the US could gain concessions from Beijing in trade and other areas.

The statement was made shortly after Beijing criticised Trump – who had not then yet taken office – for accepting a congratulatory call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party.

Donald Trump sends letter to Xi Jinping seeking ‘constructive relationship’ with China

“Mainland China might resort to trade concessions in exchange for the US agreement to change its stand on Taiwan’s status,” if Trump chose to use Taiwan and the one-China policy to bargain, said Yen Cheng-sheng, a researcher at the Institute of International Relations at National Chengchi University.

“Now everything has returned to its original standpoint,” he said.

Wang Kung-yi, a professor of international relations and strategic study at Tamkang University in Taiwan, said while what Trump said in December might just be rhetoric, his phone call with Xi yesterday indicated that Trump had taken note of the advice from his team to not use the one-China policy to challenge Beijing.

Wang, who has publicly identified as a DPP supporter, said Trump’s about-face might disappoint the hardline pro-independence camp in Taiwan, which had called on the Tsai government to make use of the US leader’s previous stand to uphold the island’s sovereignty internationally.

DPP legislator Lo Chih-cheng, however, said that although Trump returned to the original US one-China policy, it would not affect US-Taiwan relations, given that “the US one-China policy is never the same as Beijing’s one-China principle”.

Philip Yang, president of the Taiwan Association of International Relations, said uncertainty over US-Taiwan and cross-strait relations still loomed despite Trump’s turnaround.