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Was Trump’s Taiwan contact a policy shift or a misstep?


    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump spoke Friday, Dec. 2, with the president of Taiwan, a move that will be sure to anger China. It is highly unusual, probably unprecedented, for a U.S. president or president-elect to speak directly with a leader of Taiwan, a self-governing island the U.S. broke diplomatic ties with in 1979.


    In this Friday, Dec. 2, 2016 photo released by Taiwan Presidential Office Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen speaks with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump through a speaker phone in Taipei, Taiwan.

BEIJING >> Was President-elect Donald Trump signaling a shift in U.S.-China relations when he referred to Taiwan’s leader as “president” following a phone call this past week or was it an unintentional misstep?

His phone conversation with Tsai Ing-wen was a breach of long-standing tradition that risks enmity from China, but a longtime China watcher says he can’t yet be sure of the meaning.

Douglas Paal, a former director of the American Institute in Taiwan, which unofficially represents U.S. interests in Taipei, said it was too soon to judge whether Trump was going to lead that shift, or if the incident was just a “complicated accident.”

“Beijing will watch closely to see which it is,” said Paal, now vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “But until someone from Trump Tower explains further, it is unknowable.”

The U.S. shifted diplomatic recognition to China from Taiwan in 1979. But the governments in Washington and Taipei have maintained close unofficial ties and deep economic and defense relations. The U.S. is required by law to provide Taiwan with weapons to maintain its defense, and since 2009, the Obama administration has approved $14 billion in arms sales to Taiwan.

Trump’s conversation with Tsai drew an irritated, although understated, response from China, as Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Saturday that the contact was “just a small trick by Taiwan” that he believed would not change U.S. policy toward China, according to Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV.

“The one-China policy is the cornerstone of the healthy development of China-U.S. relations and we hope this political foundation will not be interfered with or damaged,” Wang was quoted as saying. Chinese officials said they lodged a complaint with the U.S. and reiterated a commitment to seeking “reunification” with the island, which they consider a renegade province.

The call was the starkest example yet of how Trump has flouted diplomatic conventions since he won the Nov. 8 election. He has apparently undertaken calls with foreign leaders without guidance customarily given by the State Department, which oversees U.S. diplomacy.

“President-elect Trump is just shooting from the hip, trying to take phone calls of congratulatory messages from leaders around the world without consideration for the implications,” said Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence said Sunday that the phone call shouldn’t necessarily be interpreted as a shift in U.S. policy. He shrugged off the attention to the incident as media hype.

“It was a courtesy call,” Pence told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Over the decades, the status of Taiwan has been one of the most sensitive issues in U.S.-China relations. China regards Taiwan as part of its territory to be retaken by force, if necessary, if it seeks independence. It would regard any recognition of a Taiwanese leader as a head of state as unacceptable

Taiwan split from the Chinese mainland in 1949. The U.S. policy acknowledges the Chinese view over sovereignty, but considers Taiwan’s status as unsettled.

Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said Trump’s conversation does not signal any change to long-standing U.S. policy on cross-strait issues. Yet the phone conversation prompted mixed reactions.

Yang Chih-kai, a 22-year-old university student in New Taipei City, said the call raised Taiwanese hopes for a stronger relationship with the United States.

“People will think that the U.S. will keep on helping Taiwan protect itself against China’s threat,” Yang said.

Taiwanese newspapers ran banner headlines Sunday about the call, and two noted on their front pages Sunday that Trump referred to Tsai as “the president of Taiwan,” a formulation that would be a huge shift in American policy and infuriate China.

The Taiwanese presidential office said Trump and Tsai discussed issues affecting Asia and the future of U.S. relations with Taiwan. “The (Taiwanese) president is looking forward to strengthening bilateral interactions and contacts as well as setting up closer cooperative relations,” the statement said.

Tsai also told Trump that she hoped the U.S. would support Taiwan in its participation in international affairs, the office said, in an apparent reference to China’s efforts to isolate Taiwan from global institutions such as the United Nations.

Taiwan’s presidential office spokesman, Alex Huang, said separately that Taiwan’s relations with China and “healthy” Taiwan-U.S. relations can proceed in parallel. “There is no conflict” in that, he said.

China’s foreign ministry said Beijing lodged “solemn representations” with the U.S. over the call.

“It must be pointed out that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory,” Geng Shuang, a ministry spokesman, said in a statement. “The government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing China.”

China is likely to be trying to identify whether this signals any intent on the part of Trump to alter long-standing U.S. policy toward Taiwan, Glaser said.

“They will hope that this is a misstep, but I think privately, they will definitely seek to educate this incoming president and ensure that he understands the sensitivity of Taiwan,” she said.

After the phone conversation Friday, Trump tweeted that Tsai “CALLED ME.” He also groused about the reaction to the call: “Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.”


Lai reported from Taipei, Taiwan. Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire in New York, Matthew Pennington and Darlene Superville in Washington, and Nomaan Merchant and news researcher Henry Hou in Beijing contributed to this report.

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  • Maybe shooting from the hip is good for this President-elect. Courtesy calls without strings attached or any political meaning but just what it is, a courtesy call ! Must every actions of Trump be interpreted as politically motivated ? Auwe! This guy seems to embrace the aloha spirit and the world could use some aloha!

    • Mr. trump embraces the aloha spirit? Mocking the disabled is aloha? Bragging about sexual assault against women is aloha? Racism against a federal judge is aloha?

      Do you know what aloha is? It doesn’t seem like it.

        • This is a set back to freedom, no doubt about it. I will live with it deep. But I will certainly enjoy telling you I told you so when the economy crashes due to the Voodoo that will surely follow. Do you miss the dow being under 7000?

        • KKK aka klastri & boots…try not to get your info from the FAKE NEWS MSM…otherwise you’re never going to sound informed…or intelligent.

          January 20, 2017 #MAGA

        • IRT KioneGohan, completely agree with your post. Fake News has brainwashed Klastri, Peter (aka Boots) et al. It’s becoming sad and funny at the same time.

  • My guess it was just Trump being Trump; somewhat bumbling about in his absolutely new role and environment, doing what he wants regardless of consequence.

    • Don’t be so sure he’s “bumbling”. Trump has made it clear he’s not a fan of China’s foreign policy, esp with regard to tariffs. It would follow that Trump would want to strengthen ties with other players in the area.

      • He can strengthen ties without poking China in the eye. He might not want his finger bitten off.

        That’s called diplomacy. He may need all the fingers he has. They will get bitten off until he learns his lessons.

        One lesson is to let someone else’s finger get bitten off. He can always fire the guy to appease China. Firing people is something that he’s good at.

        • Letting China make all the rules is called “stupid.” I think Trump is signaling that there is a new policy in the wind. Taiwan is China’s problem, not ours. By the way, what teeth does China have? Their economy is so dependent on US.

  • In response to the heading…SA/AP/MSM are the ones doing the misstep…not news but a hit piece.
    And I’m ecstatic the shoe is on the other foot which not only makes the MSM tolerable but humorous!
    MSM are collusionists with the…was gonna say the Dem party…FORMER party of Dems. How long will the Dem party take to be a party again?
    The FORMER party of Dems with their collusionist MSM ble\/\/_themselves_up.

    January 20, 2017 #MAGA

  • “Was President-elect Donald Trump signaling a shift in U.S.-China relations when he referred to Taiwan’s leader as “president” following a phone call this past week or was it an unintentional misstep?”

    This headline is a total overreaction by the media. Taiwan does have a separate government from China. Period dot. It’s nice to finally have a leader of our country who doesn’t play pretend. We’ve been selling weapons to a country that we have “unofficial” relations with all these years. The BS and pussyfooting around is over…Finally.

    • Except that Taiwan claims to be the rightful leader of China.

      They even took China’s seat in the UN and had US help with Taiwan attacks on China (raids to destroy infrastructure). Gotta give credit to Nixon who saw that the American plan wasn’t working and opened up China to the rest of the world. I would think that the Chinese would favor Republicans but with Trump in there poking them in the eye, that will probably stop.

      China’s response to Taiwan raids was to bomb the island of Quemoy, which its guns could reach, every day of the year. Tit for tat.

      I think that we need to stop these games with a country whose economy will soon eclipse our own.

      • IRT wiliki: HIT PIECE!!! ComiSupportr, America not buying it…So stop selling IT. HIliary crier…U with this NONSENSE you must be an Obama supporter…Shame on you, facts and logic have NO place in HERE. America no care about others…HULK smash!!!

        December 25, 2016 #SANTA

  • Here they go press attacking everything Trump does. The sky is falling, the world will end tomorrow, trump is the anti-christ. The same thing fox news said about Obama. Only now all of the biased liberal media is piling on the anti Trump campaign. Remember one thing the voters chose the underdog Trump over the media’s darling. Keep attacking Trump and the media will keep losing.

  • It was obviously a mistake. There’s only one President at a time – which seems to be a complete surprise to Mr. Trump.

    He hasn’t taken the time to learn the first thing about governing. Zero.

    • he is “pe trump”.. he didn’t start governing yet!! and already he is outshining the liberals and opala
      go back in you hole klastri you dunno what “aloha” is

      • What PE Trump did w/Carrier is more than what O has done in 8 years…AND PE Trump isn’t the President yet!!
        Remember this…
        “Back in June, President Barack Obama derided President-elect Donald Trump’s ability to do anything for the Carrier Corp. employees who were slated to lose their jobs. In the wake of Carrier announcing it would shift production from Indiana to Mexico, the president indicated that jobs leaving Indiana were part of a trend that could not be reversed.”
        O proved by his statement he knows absolutely nothing about Business/Job creation…not an opinion but a FACT!

        January 20, 2017 #MAGA

        • 81 consecutive months of private sector job growth. 16 million private sector jobs created. Auto industry saved. not an opinion but a FACT!

        • K K K that’s what I’m going to call you from now on..short for your different aliases…klastri aka Kurt on Kauai aka Kauai…
          Are you always an angry human?
          Still eating CROW over your LANDSLIDE LOSS that shocked the World..that you BOASTED hiLIARy would crush The Donald?
          Are you eating HUMBLE PIE which will make you a likeable human?
          Are you upset your application for WH Speaker is won’t have an opportunity to replace Josh OH MY GOSH Earnest?
          You still groveling you lost in refilling Jay CARNIVAL Carley’s job?
          Are you devastated OBAMACARE…O’s Signature LEGACY law as you had boasted about will be REPEALED & REPLACED?
          So many questions & not enough time.

          I’m looking forward to a great America for the next 8 years!! Are you?

          January 20, 2017 #MAGA

        • keonigohan: Since the passage of the 12 Amendment in 1804, there have been 54 Presidential elections. Trump’s share of the electoral vote ranks 44th out of 54. Trump lost the popular vote by 2.6 million. He lost the popular vote by 2%. That would be considered a LANDSLIDE only in the post-truth bubble that Trumpkins live in.

  • Answer to headline question: a blunder by a buffoon who was unaware of what he was doing. John Bolton’s fingerprints are all over this. Undoubtedly (and unfortunately), this is the first of many instances in which Trump, the avatar of anosognosia, will be manipulated by his handlers into actions or statements that he doesn’t understand. His tweeted excuse, “Taiwan CALLED ME,” is a tacit admission that he didn’t know what he was doing (she tricked me!).

    The most frightening article in today’s press is “No one can stop President Trump from using nuclear weapons. That’s by design.”

    • Typical fear-mongering. No one could stop any other previous President from using nuclear weapons either. The Russians were elated that Trump won as they assessed that a Hillary win would have brought the two countries closer to nuclear conflict. Thus the headline could have just as easily read “No one can stop President Clinton from using nuclear weapons. That’s by design.”
      Frankly, Hillary is so lax on maintaining national security that I cringe at the thought of her becoming Commander-In-Chief as evidenced when she carelessly blurted out how long it takes to launch our missiles.

        • What happens when people hear this and it contradicts their belief that she endangered America? Is it automatically a lie on your part, a half truth or do they question other beliefs they thought were true. I think that d_ bullfighter will probably not answer back because he thinks you made this info up.

      • The allegation that Clinton revealed some state secret about how long it takes to launch our missiles is absurd and has been shredded by fact checkers.. The launch process has been written about for decades.

        • What happens when people hear this and it contradicts their belief that she endangered America? Is it automatically a lie on your part, a half truth or do they question other beliefs they thought were true. I think that d_ bullfighter will probably not answer back because he thinks you made this info up.

        • Have you ever verified the so called fact-checkers to ascertain that they do not ever slant the supposed accuracy of their so-called “facts?” Just because the launch process has been written about for decades, in reality it amounts to unconfirmed speculation because the fact is – it has NEVER been confirmed or denied by a government official as the stated policy of the U.S. Strategic Command is to not disclose operational timelines – that is until old Hillary decided to open her mouth.

        • IRT d_bullfighter: Thanks for proving me wrong about you not commenting. I did see you validate the fact that it has been around for decades but have found a “but” in there somewhere. If we look hard enough we can always find a “but” somewhere, and it works both ways not saying that it only applies to Trump supporters or anti-Trumpers. So we can agree the answer is half truth. #MAGA

      • d_bullfighter – But not every other President was a mentally-ill, thin skinned bully who obsesses over being mocked on Twitter.

        This is going to be a long two years.

        • klastri – agreed but the thin-skinned narcissistic personality disorder of Obama does come to mind. It’s been a long eight years.

      • Do you really think Trump would launch first strike? He got more money than any of us and a better family than most post divorced peeps, meaning he has a lot more to loose, man smarter than you and smarter than you think

  • Trump has time to watch SNL, but he turns away the daily national security briefings.

    Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panttta said, “Every president I know, and I worked under nine presidents, every one has taken their intelligence daily brief because that sets the agenda for what you have to focus on as president of the United States.”

    Attn: President-Elect, Alec Baldwin spot-on impression of you is not a national priority.

    • Mr. Trump – unfortunately for the entire world – is a psychotic who is more interested in watching television and tweeting than he is about national security briefings.

      Every person who voted for him should be ashamed of what he / she did.

      • Wrong, I am not a Trump fan but every American that voted should be proud. They exercised their constitutional right protected by those who gave up their lives for that right. Just work harder next time.

      • Get over it – You didn’t know what you were talking about before the election and you still don’t know what you are talking about. Every person who voted (for or against Trump) should not be ashamed in any way. It is you who should be ashamed for being the ja*ck*as*s that you are.

  • A rooky mistake. That’s expected of Trump.

    What he’ll have a difficult time now is to punish Taiwan for making the call in the first place and putting him on the spot. It can’t look like he’s punishing them. But then again, he might not care.

  • Funny how the press is all over this story but does not cover much about the ethnic cleansing at the hands of Jr. Varsity Isis.. So how did all that politically correct Isis work out for the O?

  • Trump can talk to whomever he pleases. First off, he is the President-elect, not the President. Secondly, even after he is President, he still can talk to whomever he wants to. The U.S. is the strongest country in the world and no other country should be telling our leader who he can talk to and what he can say. We need a strong President who will do what he feels is right and appropriate – not what he thinks other people want.

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