President-elect Donald Trump spoke Friday with Taiwan’s president, a major departure from decades of U.S. policy in Asia and a breach of diplomatic protocol with ramifications for the incoming president’s relations with China.We're assured that this was not an impulsive, spur-of-the-moment act:
The call is the first known contact between a U.S. president or president-elect with a Taiwanese leader since before the United States broke diplomatic relations with the island in 1979. China considers Taiwan a province, and news of the official outreach by Trump is likely to infuriate the regional military and economic power.
A senior adviser to Trump suggested that he knew about the long-standing U.S. policy toward Taiwan when the call occurred.My first thought when I learned about this was that Trump was just going it alone, because there's money to be made for the Trump family:
“He’s well aware of what U.S. policy has been,” Kellyanne Conway said in an interview with CNN on Friday night.
Conway bristled when asked whether Trump was properly briefed before the call on the government’s long-standing policy...
“President-elect Trump is fully briefed and fully knowledgeable about these issues ... regardless of who’s on the other end of the phone,” she said....
Trump communications director Jason Miller told reporters Friday that the calls are not off the cuff.
Trump and Pence “are briefed in advance of their calls, obviously working with the teams that we have put together,” Miller said before news of the Duterte call had broken....
The Taiwan News reported that Trump’s company was sniffing around Taiwan’s Taoyuan City in September, and according to Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan, were considering building luxury hotels and resorts there.More:
Per Taiwan News: “A woman working for the Trump Organization came to Taoyuan in September, declaring the company’s investment interest in Taiwan’s Taoyuan Aerotropolis, a large urban planning development project surrounding the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.“
The outlet also said that Eric Trump, Trump’s son, is considering visiting Taiwan to look business opportunities for the company.
But as Josh Marshall notes, there are Trump advisers who are likely to see this as a good idea for reasons not related to the Trumps' bank accounts:
There's already been chatter about John Bolton, a hardcore China hawk, visiting with Trump today. Was that connected with this? Apparently Reince Priebus is also very close to Taipei, something the mainland press had already commented on with some consternation.Here's Taiwan's China Post on Priebus:
Priebus, the current chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), met with President Tsai Ing-wen prior to her election....And John Bolton wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in January called "The U.S. Can Play a 'Taiwan Card'":
Foreign Minister David Lee told a legislative session Monday that Priebus' appointment was "good news for Taiwan" given his familiarity with Taiwan-U.S. affairs.
The future chief of staff had maintained good relations with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the U.S., Lee said, adding that he was "happy to see Priebus receive such an important position because he has been a friend to Taiwan."
Lee mentioned Priebus' previous visits to Taiwan, including a trip for the R.O.C.'s centenary celebrations in 2011.
Priebus also met with a delegation of Taiwanese lawmakers visiting the U.S. in July....
In his new position, Priebus would serve as a "channel" for maintaining Taiwan-U.S. relations, according to an unnamed source close to the matter cited by the United Evening News.
"There will definitely be no problems for Taiwan-U.S. relations," the source was quoted as saying.
Priebus has been considered over recent years as one of Taiwan's strongest advocates in Washington.
During the Republican National Convention in July he led efforts to include the "Six Assurances" -- which were agreed by Ronald Reagan in 1982 and ensure the sale of defensive arms to Taiwan -- for the first time in the party's platform.
For a new U.S. president willing to act boldly, there are opportunities to halt and then reverse China’s seemingly inexorable march toward hegemony in East Asia....I think Trump's primary interest is his wallet. But I also think he's getting the okay from advisers, who have agendas of their own. So, um, I guess we'll be at war, or at least in a cold war of sorts, with China soon.
An alternative now would be to play the “Taiwan card” against China. America should insist that China reverse its territorial acquisitiveness, including abandoning its South China Sea bases and undoing the ecological damage its construction has caused....
If Beijing isn’t willing to back down, America has a diplomatic ladder of escalation that would compel Beijing’s attention. The new U.S. administration could start with receiving Taiwanese diplomats officially at the State Department; upgrading the status of U.S. representation in Taipei from a private “institute” to an official diplomatic mission; inviting Taiwan’s president to travel officially to America; allowing the most senior U.S. officials to visit Taiwan to transact government business; and ultimately restoring full diplomatic recognition.