Beijing should view Donald Trump call calmly, says Taipei

The presidential office in Taipei issued a photograph of Ms Tsai Ing-wen during her phone call with US President-elect Donald Trump on Friday. The office said Ms Tsai congratulated Mr Trump on his election win.
The presidential office in Taipei issued a photograph of Ms Tsai Ing-wen during her phone call with US President-elect Donald Trump on Friday. The office said Ms Tsai congratulated Mr Trump on his election win.PHOTO: REUTERS

The Taiwanese government has called for calm, following an unprecedented phone call between President Tsai Ing-wen and US President-elect Donald Trump on Friday night, as analysts cautioned against viewing the call as a reversal of Washington's "one China" policy.

The 10-minute phone conversation, which the presidential office said both sides had agreed on beforehand, broke with nearly 40 years of tradition after the United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979 .

Yesterday, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), the top China policymaking body, urged Beijing to look at the call "calmly".

"We call on China to face the new situation in the Asia-Pacific region and work with us towards developing a benign cross-strait relationship and create a new way that will benefit the development of peace, prosperity and stability for the region," the MAC said in a statement.

Cross-strait ties have turned frosty since Ms Tsai took office in May and did not acknowledge the 1992 Consensus - a tacit agreement that there is only one China, with each side having its own interpretation of what it means.

The presidential office said Ms Tsai congratulated Mr Trump on his election win, and issued a photograph of Ms Tsai during the call.

Asked how the call would affect cross-strait ties, presidential office spokesman Alex Huang said it is in the interest of Taipei to maintain a good Taiwan-US relationship because it is as important as cross- strait relations.

 

Analysts see the call as a "friendly gesture" by Mr Trump, which does not necessarily represent his policy position or a change in US policy.

"It is just a 10-minute call with both leaders making general conversation without any substantive discussion," Tamkang University political analyst Edward Chen said.

"What will matter more is what Mr Trump will do when he is in office - whether he increases arms sales... or whether he changes his stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership." Mr Trump has said he will withdraw from the 12-member free trade pact, which Taiwan is hoping to join.

Mr Trump, a critic of China's economic and trade policies, might be signalling to Beijing that US-China ties would be "different from the past", said Dr Philip Yang, former deputy secretary-general of Tai- wan's National Security Council.

"He is using Taiwan as leverage to signal to China they will need to sit down and talk," Dr Yang added.

Ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Lo Chih- cheng hailed the call as a breakthrough and said it "may open up more possibilities to Taiwan in the global community".

The opposition Kuomintang said it welcomed the call. Its director of international affairs Eric Huang said he hopes the DPP will "implement foreign policies that consider regional and cross-strait political relations, and have (Taiwan's) benefit as the primary strategic consideration, rather than engage in events that merely offer foreign policy public relations value".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 04, 2016, with the headline 'Beijing should view call calmly, says Taipei'. Print Edition | Subscribe