Af­ter Trump row, China urges US to block Tai­wan pres­i­dent

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BEI­JING: China has urged Wash­ing­ton to block Tai­wan’s pres­i­dent from pass­ing through the US, af­ter re­ports said she may stop in New York for talks with Don­ald Trump’s team, fol­low­ing a pro­to­col-smash­ing phone call be­tween the pair. The pres­i­dent-elect broke with decades of prece­dent last week to ac­cept a con­grat­u­la­tory phone call from Tsai, an­ger­ing Bei­jing which re­gards the is­land as a rogue prov­ince await­ing uni­fi­ca­tion.

Tai­wan’s Lib­erty Times re­ported that Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing-wen may seek to meet mem­bers of Trump’s team while in New York on her way to Cen­tral Amer­ica, though her of­fice would not con­firm the plan to AFP. The trip would take place be­fore Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion on Jan­uary 20, the news­pa­per said. Tai­wan has diplo­matic re­la­tions with 22 states and the is­land’s lead­ers make reg­u­lar vis­its to its small group of al­lies in Cen­tral Amer­ica and the Caribbean, of­ten stop­ping in the US for meet­ings with sym­pa­thetic law­mak­ers.

China’s for­eign min­istry called on Wash­ing­ton to block any stopover in the United States. Tsai’s “true in­ten­tion is self-ev­i­dent”, it told AFP yes­ter­day. “We hope Amer­ica abides by the prin­ci­ple of the One China pol­icy and the three US-PRC Joint Com­mu­niques and does not al­low her tran­sit.” Coun­tries that have for­mal diplo­matic ties with Bei­jing can­not en­joy such links with Taipei and vice versa. Both Bei­jing and Taipei in prin­ci­ple con­sider them­selves the only le­git­i­mate power in charge of both China and Tai­wan.

Bei­jing fur­ther warned against Wash­ing­ton giv­ing an “er­ro­neous sig­nal to ‘Tai­wanese in­de­pen­dence’ forces”. Trump’s sur­prise call with Tsai and sub­se­quent Twit­ter bar­rage crit­i­ciz­ing Chi­nese mil­i­tary ex­pan­sions and ac­cus­ing it of ma­nip­u­lat­ing its ex­change rate seemed to have caught Bei­jing off-guard.

‘Diplo­matic rookie’

China’s for­eign min­istry re­peat­edly de­flected or down­played re­porters’ ques­tions Mon­day. But by Tues­day, state me­dia were trot­ting out at­tacks on Trump as a “diplo­matic rookie”. Yes­ter­day they em­pha­sized the need for calm, with ex­perts in the of­ten shrill Global Times urg­ing China to “watch and wait” un­til Trump takes of­fice and not to “play his games”. Re­ports sug­gest the call was long-planned by both sides, but whether Trump wants a whole­sale change in US pol­icy on Tai­wan is still un­clear.

Com­mu­nist Party au­thor­i­ties will be closely watch­ing Trump’s picks for sec­re­tary of state and am­bas­sador to China as a sign of whether he truly in­tends to take a hard line on the world’s sec­ond-largest econ­omy. Al­though the United States is Tai­wan’s main ally and arms sup­plier, it has not had of­fi­cial diplo­matic re­la­tions with Tai­wan since 1979, when it switched recog­ni­tion from Taipei to Bei­jing.

Asked about Tsai’s visit, a US State Depart­ment spokesman said at a brief­ing on Mon­day that such tran­sits were in keep­ing with “long­stand­ing US prac­tice” and noted the US “usu­ally” al­lows Tai­wan’s lead­ers to pass through the coun­try. It would be the sec­ond such trip for Tsai, who stopped over in Mi­ami and Los Angeles on her way to Panama and Paraguay ear­lier this year dur­ing her first over­seas trip as pres­i­dent.

Bei­jing protested to Wash­ing­ton over that trip as Tsai met with US politi­cians in Mi­ami. Pre­vi­ous pres­i­dents of Tai­wan have also tran­sited the US, with Tsai’s pre­de­ces­sor Ma Ying-jeou stop­ping in Hawaii in 2014 and Bos­ton in 2015. Tai­wan has hem­or­rhaged al­lies in re­cent decades as they jumped ship to align with an as­cen­dant China.

—AP

TAIPEI: In this Fri­day, Dec 2, 2016, file photo, re­leased by Tai­wan Pres­i­den­tial Of­fice, Tai­wan’s Pres­i­dent Tsai Ing-wen speaks with US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump through a speaker phone.

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