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Friday, December 2, 2016

Trump speaks with Taiwanese president, breaks protocol

New York -- President-elect Trump spoke with the President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, Friday in a move that is certain to peeve the Chinese. It is unprecedented for a U.S. president or president-elect to speak directly with a leader of Taiwan as we broke ties with the island in 1979.

Since that year, Washington has pursued a "one China" policy. We shifted diplomatic recognition of China from the government of Taiwan to the communist government on the mainland. We now recognize Beijing as representing China but continue to maintain unofficial ties with the island nation of Taiwan.

Trump's transition team said that The Donald spoke with the Taiwanese President and she offered her congratulations to him.

"During the discussion, they noted the close economic, political, and security ties . . . between Taiwan and the United States. President-elect Trump also congratulated President Tsai on becoming President of Taiwan earlier this year," the statement read.

Forgetting to put on his oven mitts, Trump later tweeted: "The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!"

Right?

The call was confirmed by a Taiwanese source with direct knowledge of the call, but requested anonymity to speak about it before an official statement was issued on it from Tapei.

The White House learned of the call after it took place, according to a senior administration official, who also requested anonymity because of the sensitive diplomatic relations involved.

China's embassy in Washington didn't respond to a media request for a comment.

The Friday call exemplifies how Trump has disregarded typical diplomatic conventions since his election to the presidency. He has apparently taken other calls from foreign leaders without guidance customarily given by the State Department which oversees U.S. diplomacy.

Tsai was elected in January via a democratic election and took office in May. While our ties with Taiwan are unofficial, they are quite close, since they split from the Chinese mainland in 1949 in a civil war. We acknowledge China's view over sovereignty, but consider Taiwan's status as unsettled.

China sees Taiwan as part of their territory to be retaken by force, if need be, if it seeks independence. The U.S. has legal commitments to help Taiwan maintain its ability to defend itself.

Ned Price, the White House National Security Council spokesman said Trump's conversation doesn't signal any change to our long-standing policy on "cross-strait" issues.

"We remain firmly committed to our 'one China' policy," Price said. "Our fundamental interest is in peaceful and stable cross-strait relations."

The White House (aka Obama) is probably quite frustrated by Trump's conversation with Tsai, but still wants to make a smooth transition.

Let's hope Trump is careful about his foreign policy dealings once he's sworn in.