US President-elect Donald Trump said the United States did not necessarily have to stick to its long-standing position that Taiwan is part of “one China,” questioning nearly four decades of policy in a move likely to antagonize Beijing.
Trump’s comments on “Fox News Sunday” came after he prompted a diplomatic protest from China over his decision to accept a telephone call from Taiwan’s president on Dec. 2.
“I fully understand the ‘one China’ policy, but I don’t know why we have to be bound by a ‘one China’ policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade,” Trump told Fox.
Trump’s call with President Tsai Ing-wen was the first such contact with Taiwan by a US president-elect or president since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, acknowledging Taiwan as part of “one China.”
Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province and the subject is a sensitive one for China.
Chinese officials had no immediate reaction to Trump’s remarks.
After Trump’s phone conversation with Taiwan’s president, the Obama administration said senior White House aides had spoken with Chinese officials to insist that
Washington’s “one China” policy remained intact. The administration also warned that progress made in the US relationship with China could be undermined by a “flaring up” of the Taiwan issue.
Following Trump’s latest comments, a White House aide said the Obama administration had no reaction beyond its previously stated policy positions.
In the Fox interview, Trump criticized China over its currency policies, its activities in the South China Sea and its stance toward North Korea. He said it was not up to Beijing to decide whether he should take a call from Taiwan’s leader.
“I don’t want China dictating to me and this was a call put in to me,” Trump said. “It was a very nice call. Short. And why should some other nation be able to say I can’t take a call?”
“I think it actually would`ve been very disrespectful, to be honest with you, not taking it,” Trump added.
Trump plans to nominate a long-standing friend of Beijing, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, as the next US ambassador to China.
But Trump is considering John Bolton, a former Bush administration official who has urged a tougher line on Beijing, for the No. 2 job at the US State Department, according to a source familiar with the matter.
In a Wall Street Journal article last January, Bolton said the next US president should take bolder steps to halt China`s military aggressiveness in the South and East China seas.
Bolton said Washington should consider using a “diplomatic ladder of escalation” that could start with receiving Taiwanese diplomats officially at the State Department and lead to restoring full diplomatic recognition.