Ex-U.S. officials view Tsai’s call to Trump as positive development

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen's (???) congratulatory phone call to United States President-elect Donald Trump last week has been described by two former U.S. officials as a positive development in the ties between the two sides.

The call on Dec. 2 not only carried symbolic weight but also had strategic significance for the incoming U.S. administration regarding trade talks with Taiwan, said Stephen Yates, an expert on Asia who served as deputy national security adviser to former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.

In an interview on Voice of America on Sunday, Yates said he was certain that during the call, Trump addressed Tsai as president of Taiwan because she is in fact Taiwan's president, a reality that some people in the United States and China deny.

Trump knows well how to separate the symbolic and the substantial meanings of the congratulatory phone call, said Yates, current chairman of the Idaho Republican Party, who is scheduled to visit Taiwan this week to meet with business clients.

Yates pointed out that Trump had issued a press release on the 10-minute phone conversation with Tsai and also tweeted about it, mentioning U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

"Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call," Trump tweeted late Friday after a storm of criticisms and speculations erupted in the U.S. over the call.

One of the speculations aired was whether Trump planned to break with the U.S.' current "one-China" policy, which was adopted in 1979 after Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

According to Yates, the content of Trump's tweet indicated that the incoming U.S. president probably placed more value on the strategic importance of his phone call with regard to U.S. arms exports than on symbolic issues and criticisms of the call.

The Taiwanese people could sense Trump's happiness and pleasure at the phone call from their president, Yates said.

He said, however, that he wanted to remind Taiwanese that Trump loves the U.S. and that American interests will be his top priority.

Trump's aims include selling more arms to Taiwan to deter China's military threats and negotiating trade deals with Taiwan, Yates said.

Trump's Taiwan policy might prove a political challenge to the Taiwan government and an even bigger one to Chinese leaders, Yates said.

If China is infuriated about the phone call and sees it a strategic threat by the U.S. or Taiwan, that is China's problem, Yates said.

He suggested that China follow Trump's example and show respect for Taiwan's democratization and political reforms.

In similar vein, former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director William Stanton said on a radio newscast in Taipei on Monday that he thought the phone call was a positive development in relations between Taiwan and the U.S.

Stanton said he thought the call was pre-arranged and he expressed the view that Washington should have made such a move earlier.

Commenting on a White House statement issued after the conversation between Tsai and Trump, Stanton said he did not agree with the administration's response that it remained "firmly committed" to its one-China policy.

Stanton said "one China" should not be overly simplified because the U.S. and China each have different interpretations of the policy, and the U.S. has never said that China has sovereignty over Taiwan.

Under its one-China policy, the U.S. recognizes Beijing as representing China but retains unofficial ties with Taiwan.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel