Taiwan’s Opposition Questions Value of Trump-Tsai Phone Call

Taiwan’s Opposition Questions Value of Trump-Tsai Phone Call
Photo Credit: Reuters/達志影像

What you need to know

The conversation, which took place on Friday, is thought to be the first time a president or president-elect of the United States has directly talked to the leader of Taiwan since 1979.

Taiwan’s main opposition party has questioned the value of the historic phone call between U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).

The conversation, which took at 11 p.m. on Friday (Taiwan time), is thought to be the first time a president or president-elect of the United States has directly contacted the leader of Taiwan since 1979, when formal diplomatic ties between the United States and China were established. The call marks a major break with convention, as China has for decades blocked formal diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Taiwan.

Eric Huang (黃裕鈞), the Director of International Affairs Department of The Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, or KMT), says that the opposition hopes that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) “will implement foreign policies that consider regional and cross-Strait political relations, and have our country’s benefit as the primary strategic consideration, rather than engage in events that merely offer foreign policy public relations value.”

“The KMT also reiterates that our national security agencies should appropriately analyze whether this teleconference, the highest level interaction between the countries since 1979, was simply a courtesy call or represents a change in U.S. policy,” Huang says.

The KMT, which fostered closer ties with China in its last term in power, which ended this year, “welcomes, and is grateful, that the United States continues to support Taiwan," he says.

However, Huang says that the KMT hopes the Taiwan government “continues the ‘no surprises’ foreign policy implemented under the recent eight years KMT government, as such forms the basis of a foreign policy that benefits the people of both countries."

“The KMT also calls on President Tsai to report to the people of Taiwan on the direction of its United States trade and military cooperation policies subsequent to the teleconference with President-elect Trump and the inauguration of a new U.S. administration," he says.

The phone call, which is understood to have lasted for about 10 minutes, marks a major break with convention, as China has for decades blocked formal diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Taiwan.

Tsai, in a statement, says she started the conversation by congratulating Trump on his victory. The two then talked about boosting economic development and national security in both countries.

Tsai expressed hopes to strengthen communication and interaction between both sides and to establish a stronger relationship. She also said she hopes the U.S. will continue to support Taiwan in giving the country more opportunities in international issues.

Since the DPP took office in May, Beijing has cooled ties with Taipei. It has also blocked Taiwan’s involvement in a number of international institutions, saying that Taiwan’s participation should be made with respect to the “one China” principle and the “political basis” of the so-called 1992 consensus, which the Tsai administration has refused to recognize.

Taiwan’s secretary general of the national security council, foreign minister, acting secretary general and spokesperson of the Presidential Office were also present for the call.

Commentators believe the event is likely to “infuriate” China’s leadership.

However, a Trump spokesman said the president-elect was "well aware of what U.S. policy has been" on Taiwan, according to reports.

After the call, Trump took to Twitter to clarify how the call came about saying:

"The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!" [sic]

An hour later he was back on Twitter, in an apparent response to further questions about the call.

"Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call," he said.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton responded positively to the call. “I commend President-elect Trump for his conversation with President Tsai Ing-wen, which reaffirms our commitment to the only democracy on Chinese soil. I have met with President Tsai twice and I'm confident she expressed to the president-elect the same desire for closer relations with the United States.”

Editor: Olivia Yang


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