In his first full interview of the new year, President-elect Donald Trump explains his approach to foreign policy from a "realpolitik" lens, when he told the WSJ overnight that relations with China and Russia will depend on the degree to which the two countries cooperate with U.S. economic, diplomatic and military priorities.
The interview comes one day after China's incensed press rebuked a statement by Rex Tillerson during his confirmation hearing, when he said that China will not be granted access to the disputed South China Sea islands, responding that "such remarks are not worth taking seriously because they are a mish-mash of naivety, shortsightedness, worn-out prejudices, and unrealistic political fantasies" and "would set a course for devastating confrontation between China and the US."
Trump says he would keep intact sanctions against Russia imposed by the Obama administration “at least for a period of time”; says he is prepared to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin after he is sworn in
Assuing further media vitriol, Trump told the WSJ he wouldn’t commit to America’s "One China" agreement with Beijing, i.e., he would continue to use Taiwan's independence as a bargaining chip, until he saw what he considered progress from Beijing in its currency and trade practices. Asked if he supported the One China policy on Taiwan, Mr. Trump said: “Everything is under negotiation including One China.”
Mr. Trump seemed impatient with diplomatic protocols involving China and Taiwan. After his victory he took a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan’s leader, triggering objections from Beijing and stoking concerns among some U.S. foreign policy experts who questioned whether he understood the implications of such a conversation.
Speaking of Taiwan, he said: “We sold them $2 billion of military equipment last year. We can sell them $2 billion of the latest and greatest military equipment but we’re not allowed to accept a phone call. First of all it would have been very rude not to accept the phone call.”
On the other hand, Trump also made a point of showing a holiday greeting card he received from China’s leader, Xi Jinping. “I have a beautiful card from the chairman,” he said.
Trump also made news when he said that he would not label China a currency manipulator on his first day in the White House. Previously Trump has said in the past he would label China a currency manipulator after he takes office. In the interview, he said he wouldn’t take that step on his first day in the White House. “I would talk to them first,” he said.
He added: “Certainly they are manipulators. But I’m not looking to do that.” But he made plain his displeasure with China’s currency practices. “Instead of saying, ‘We’re devaluating our currency,’ they say, ‘Oh, our currency is dropping.’ It’s not dropping. They’re doing it on purpose.
“Our companies can’t compete with them now because our currency is strong and it’s killing us.”
As explained previously China is indeed manipulating its currency, although over the past 18 months it has been doing so in the other direction, intervening to support it from weakening further as a result of hundreds of billions in capital outflows, which have resulted in unprecedented capital controls.
Naturally, Trump also discussed the ever present topic of Russia and his relationship with Putin. Trump told the WSJ that while he would be open to lifting sanctions on Russian, “at least for a period of time,” he would keep intact sanctions against Russia imposed by the Obama administration in late December in response to Moscow’s alleged cyberattacks to influence November’s election. "But he suggested he might do away with those penalties if Russia proved helpful in battling terrorists and reaching other goals important to the U.S."
“If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?” he said.
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On Saturday morning, Trump was once again active on Twitter, first slamming Congressman John Lewis, who made news on Friday saying that Trump is "not a legitimate president", saying "John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!"...
Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2017
mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2017
... and then reverted back to the key political topic of last week, namely the US intel report on Trump, tweeting that "INTELLIGENCE INSIDERS NOW CLAIM THE TRUMP DOSSIER IS "A COMPLETE FRAUD!" "
INTELLIGENCE INSIDERS NOW CLAIM THE TRUMP DOSSIER IS "A COMPLETE FRAUD!" @OANN— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2017