Trump broke with decades-long Washington ‘myth:’ former U.S. official

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s phone call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) marks a departure from a long held “myth” in Washington as does his response to criticism that accepting the call from Taiwan risks upsetting ties with China, a former White House official said Tuesday in Taipei.

Stephen Yates, deputy national security adviser to then-U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney during the George W. Bush administration, said at a news conference that he supported Trump’s decision to take the call from Tsai last Friday.

Referring to a tweet posted by Trump after the call triggered criticism in the United States, Yates said that “in 140 characters or less, he pretty much broke a myth that I think has stood in the way of common sense in Washington for multiple decades.”

“Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call,” Trump said on Twitter after he spoke with Tsai.

Citing the tweet, Yates said that Trump was delivering a message that “the people of Taiwan spend a handsome amount of money buying military articles from the United States and no one tells me that’s a bad idea. But then someone questions whether I should’ve accepted the phone call.”

The Trump-Tsai call was the first interaction of its kind since the U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in January 1979.

The call raised many eyebrows in the U.S., with critics and media outlets saying Trump broke diplomatic convention and risked upsetting relations with China.

“I do not believe that accepting a courtesy phone call of congratulations is provocative,” Yates said, in response to those criticisms. “It is not a changing policy to take a phone call.”

On Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that the National Security Council had reassured China on Washington’s “one China policy” after Trump’s phone call with Taiwan’s leader last week triggered a protest from Beijing.

That policy, has been in place for nearly 40 years, and it has been focused on promoting and preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, which is in the interest of the U.S., Earnest said. “If the president-elect’s team has a different aim, I’ll leave it to them to describe,” he said.

Asked about the White House’s remarks, Yates said he was “shocked” that “the White House spokesman would play politics with that phone call.”

It was just a congratulatory phone call involving a conversation like “Hello. How are you? Congratulations. Thank you. I look forward to dealing with you in the future,” Yates said.

Trump and his team have made it clear that the many calls received from leaders around the world have been congratulatory and personal, Yates said.

Meanwhile, speaking on Taiwan-U.S.-China relations, Yates said that they are not an isolated triangular relationship and are better viewed as part of a global network of relationships, with other important parties involved, he said.

In response to concerns that Taiwan could be used as a bargaining chip in U.S-China ties, he downplayed such concerns and urged Taipei to try and contribute more to global issues such as how to keep people safe and prevent the world’s worst weapons from falling into the most irresponsible hands.

Yates is currently chairman of the Idaho Republican Party and was one of those responsible for including the “Six Assurances,” given to Taiwan by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1982, and the Taiwan Relations Act in the Republican Party’s platform at its national convention in July.

He is on a private visit to Taiwan to meet with friends and exchange ideas, he said, adding that there has been no confirmation yet on whether he will meet with President Tsai.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel

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