Taiwan politics

US-China relations

White House seeks to reassure Beijing after Trump’s call with Taiwan president

United States committed to the one China principle and its policy towards Taiwan is unchanged, National Security Council chiefs tell Chinese officials

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 December, 2016, 2:28pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 December, 2016, 5:55pm

The White House said on Monday it had sought to reassure Beijing after president-elect Donald Trump’s phone call with Taiwan’s leader last week, which the Obama administration warned could undermine progress in relations with Beijing.

The statement from a spokesman for US President Barack Obama highlighted concerns about the potential fallout from Trump’s unusual call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday, which prompted a diplomatic protest from Beijing the following day.

Watch: US reaffirms ‘One China’ policy

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said senior National Security Council officials spoke twice with Chinese officials over the weekend to reassure them of Washington’s commitment to the one China policy and to “reiterate and clarify the continued commitment of the United States to our longstanding China policy”.

Trump targets China in Twitter storm over Taiwan phone call

The policy has been in place for 40 years and is focused on promoting and preserving peace and stability in the strait separating mainland China and Taiwan, which is in US interests, Earnest said.

“If the president-elect’s team has a different aim, I’ll leave it to them to describe,” he said.

“The Chinese government in Beijing placed an enormous priority on this situation and it’s a sensitive matter. Some of the progress that we have made in our relationship with China could be undermined by this issue flaring up,” he said.

The call with Taipei was the first by a US president-elect or president with a Taiwan leader since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei in 1979, acknowledging Taiwan as part of “one China”. Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province.

Despite tensions over matters ranging from trade to China’s pursuit of territorial claims in the South China Sea, the Obama administration has highlighted cooperation on global issues, such as climate change and Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programmes.

China’s Foreign Ministry said earlier on Monday that Trump was clear about Beijing’s position on the Taiwan issue and that Beijing had maintained contacts with his team.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence sought to play down the telephone conversation, saying on Sunday it was a “courtesy” call, not intended to show a shift in US policy on China.

Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-Wen initiated phone call with Donald Trump, says island’s presidential spokesman

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, who has been mentioned as a possible secretary of state in the Trump administration, said on Monday he thought reaction to the Taiwan call was overblown.

“He got a call, he took it and again, he’s getting calls from everyone, so I think probably a lot more is being read into it than is the case, really,” Corker said.

The Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said in an editorial on Tuesday that China would have to meet Trump’s “reckless remarks” head-on.

“Trump’s China-bashing tweet is just a cover for his real intent, which is to treat China as a fat lamb and cut a piece of meat off it,” the paper said.