The Associated PressTAIPEI (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump spoke Friday with the president of Taiwan, a move that will be sure to anger China.
It is highly unusual, probably unprecedented, for a U.S. president or president-elect to speak directly with a leader of Taiwan, a self-governing island the United States broke diplomatic ties with in 1979.
Washington has pursued a so-called “one China” policy since 1979, when it shifted diplomatic recognition of China from the government in Taiwan to the communist government on the mainland. Under that policy, the United States recognizes Beijing as representing China but retains unofficial ties with Taiwan.
A statement from Trump’s transition team said he spoke with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who offered her congratulations.
“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 said.
Trump tweeted later: “The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!”
About an hour later, Trump groused about the reaction to the call. “Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call,” he tweeted.
The Taiwan presidential office issued a statement early Saturday saying Trump and Tsai discussed issues affecting Asia and the future of U.S. relations with Taiwan.
“The [Taiwan] president is looking forward to strengthening bilateral interactions and contacts as well as setting up closer cooperative relations,” the statement said.
“The president also told U.S. President-elect Trump that she hopes the United States will continue to support Taiwan’s efforts in having more opportunities to participate in and contribute to international affairs in the future,” Tsai’s office said.
It said the two also “shared ideas and concepts” on “promoting domestic economic development and strengthening national defense” to improve the lives of ordinary people.
The White House learned of the conversation after it had taken place, said a senior Obama administration official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive diplomatic relations involved.
Friday’s call is the starkest example yet of how Trump has flouted diplomatic conventions since he won the Nov. 8 election. He has apparently undertaken calls with foreign leaders without guidance customarily lent by the State Department, which oversees U.S. diplomacy.
“President-elect Trump is just shooting from the hip, trying to take phone calls of congratulatory messages from leaders around the world without consideration for the implications,” said Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
Glaser said such a call was “completely unprecedented” or at least has never been known publicly. Beijing is expected to respond with a reminder to Trump about commitments the United States has made to China on Taiwan, she said.
China is also likely to be trying to identify whether this signals any intent on the part of Trump to alter longstanding U.S. policy toward Taiwan, Glaser said.