Trump Risks Major Diplomatic Scandal With China Following Taiwan Phone Call

Ever since the US adopted a “One China” policy after the 1972 Nixon-Mao meetings, followed by President Carter formally recognizing Beijing as the sole government of China in 1978 leading to the closure of the US embassy in Taipei one year later and cutting off relations with Taiwan, when it comes to US-China diplomacy Washington has maintained a steady posture when it comes to Taiwan: non-recognition.

That changed today, when as the Trump team reported, following nearly four decades of diplomatic non-contact, the president-elect held a phone conversation with the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, who offered Trump her congratulations, and during which "they noted the close economic, political and security ties" that exist between Taiwan and the United States.

Oops.

Perhaps Trump was confused, and thought he was chatting with the president of the People's Republic of China, also known as China, instead of the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan, but whatever the reason, Trump now risks a major diplomatic scandal with China - before he has even been inaugurated - as a result of his phone call with the president of Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province. As the FT accurately notes, "although it is not clear if the Trump transition team intended the conversation to signal a broader change in US policy towards Taiwan, the call is likely to infuriate Beijing."

Quoted by the FT, Evan Medeiros, former Asia director at the White House national security council said that “the Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action, of historic proportions."

“Regardless if it was deliberate or accidental, this phone call will fundamentally change China’s perceptions of Trump’s strategic intentions for the negative. With this kind of move, Trump is setting a foundation of enduring mistrust and strategic competition for US-China relations.”

The phone call prompted a quick reaction, for now domestically (China is sleeping at this moment), with Sen. Chris Murphy taking to Twitter to say that "It's probably time we get a Secretary of State nominee on board. Preferably w experience. Like, really really soon."

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In a separate diplomatic snafu, Trump invited Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte to the White House next year during a "very engaging, animated" phone conversation, an aide to president Duterte said on Friday, amid rocky relations between their two countries.

Acording to the Trump team read-out of the conversation, the two leaders "noted the long history of friendship and cooperation between the two nations, and agreed that the two governments would continue to work closely on matters of shared interest and concern."

There was no mention that in virtually every public appearance by Duterte in recent months, he has attcked either the US, or Obama, repeatedly calling the former "son of a bitch", occasionally calling him "son of a whore."

Trump's brief chat with the firebrand Philippine president comes during a period of uncertainty about one of Washington's most important Asian alliances, stoked by Duterte's unrelenting hostility toward the United States and his repeated threats to sever decades-old defense ties. The call lasted just over seven minutes, Duterte's special advisor, Christopher Go, said in a short text message to media, which gave few details. Trump's transition team had no immediate comment.

As Reuters summarizes, in his five months in office, the volatile Duterte has upended Philippine foreign policy by berating the United States, making overtures toward historic rival China and pursuing a new alliance with Russia. His diplomacy has created jitters among some Asian countries, wary about Beijing's rising influence and Washington's staying power as a regional counterbalance.

The maverick former mayor has praised China and told U.S. President Barack Obama to "go to hell" and called him a "son of a bitch" whom he would humiliate if he visited the Philippines.

 

The anger was unleashed after Obama expressed concern about possible human rights abuses in Duterte's war on drugs, during which over 2,000 people have been killed.

 

Duterte had initially expressed optimism about having Trump in the Oval Office, saying he no longer wanted quarrels. But it has not tempered his rhetoric and he has continued to rail at what he calls U.S. "hypocrisy" and "bullying".

In an interview with Reuters during the election campaign, Trump said Duterte's comments showed "a lack of respect for our country." However said lack of respect appears to not have been sufficient to snub the Philippino leader, sometimes referred to as the "Trump of the East" due to his "brash, mercurial ways."

Duterte has threatened repeatedly to sever defense ties between the two allies, saying he "hates" having foreign soldiers in his country. Joint military exercises look set to be scaled back next year, as Duterte demanded, including the number of U.S. troops involved.