Taiwan congratulates Donald Trump, lauds high point in ties

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen congratulated US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on being sworn into office.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen congratulated US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on being sworn into office.PHOTO: EPA

TAIPEI - Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen congratulated US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on being sworn into office, as the island looks forward to boost bilateral ties described by former Premier Yu Shyi-kun as at a "historic high" .

In a Twitter message, Ms Tsai expressed hope for better relations between Taiwan and the US.

"Democracy is what ties Taiwan and the United States together. Look forward to advancing the friendship and partnership," Ms Tsai tweeted.

Taiwan's Presidential Office said in a statement that Ms Tsai believes that the US is Taiwan's "most important international ally" as both sides share common values such as freedom, democracy and respect for human rights.

Both sides have worked together in areas such as politics, trade, security and culture, leading to a strong friendship and contributing to peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific region, the statement said.

It added that Ms Tsai hopes that under the Trump administration, bilateral relations will further develop and benefit both sides and the international community. In a statement, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs also congratulated President Trump, saying that it hopes to work with his administration to strengthen ties.

 

Washington remains Taiwan's most powerful ally and arms supplier even though it cut official diplomatic ties with the island and switched recognition to Beijing in 1979.

But Mr Trump, a critic of China's economic and trade policies, has stoked tensions between Beijing and Taipei since he swept to victory in last November's polls.

An unprecedented phone call between Ms Tsai and Mr Trump last month angered China. Its foreign minister Wang Yi dismissed the 10-minute phone call, the first between US and Taiwan leaders in nearly 40 years, as a "petty gambit" by Taiwan. Mr Trump further fuelled tensions when he questioned the need for the US to continue the decades-old policy of recognising Taiwan as a part of "one China".

China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province to be reunited with the mainland eventually.

Beijing has been deeply suspicious of Ms Tsai and her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party. She has not acknowledged the "one China" principle since taking office last May, leading Beijing to cut off official communications with Taiwan.

Former Kuomintang vice secretary-general Chang Jung-kung was quoted in Taiwanese newspaper China Times on Saturday (Jan 21) as saying that if Taiwan were to only rely on the US, the island may be "sold out as as a bargaining chip".

Former Premier Yu, who led a delegation to attend Mr Trump's inauguration ceremony in Washington, was quoted by the Liberty Times newspaper as saying that Taiwan does not have to worry about being used as a bargaining chip.

Mr Yu, who was the premier between 2002 and 2005, told reporters that he asked former Heritage Foundation President Edwin Feulner if Taiwan will be "betrayed". In reply, Mr Feulner, a foreign policy advisor of President Trump, assured that "Taiwan need not worry", said Mr Yu.

In a separate interview with the Agence France-Presse, Mr Yu said "Taiwan-US relations are probably at their best right now".

jermync@sph.com.sg