Donald Trump Pence downplays significance of Trump's call with Taiwan president

Trump's call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday raised Chinese hackles because it was the first by a U.S. president-elect.

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US President-elect Donald Trump arrives to attend a ?Villains and Heroes? themed costume party on December 3, 2016 play

US President-elect Donald Trump arrives to attend a ?Villains and Heroes? themed costume party on December 3, 2016

(AFP/File)
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President-elect Donald Trump's phone conversation with Taiwan's president was not intended to show a shift in U.S. policy on China, Vice President-elect Mike Pence said on Sunday, describing the chat as a "courtesy" call.

Trump's call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday raised Chinese hackles because it was the first by a U.S. president-elect or president with a Taiwanese leader since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition to China from Taiwan in 1979, acknowledging Taiwan as part of "one China."

China blamed Taiwan for the call, but also lodged a diplomatic protest with the United States on Saturday, saying the "one China" policy was the bedrock of relations between China and the United States.

The diplomatic contretemps was one of several recently for the Republican president-elect, a real estate magnate who has never held public office and has no foreign affairs or military experience. Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, is still considering whom to name as his secretary of state.

Pence called the uproar over the call with "democratically elected" Tsai a "tempest in a teapot." He blamed the media for the controversy, saying the call was similar in nature to one between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping after the Nov. 8 election.

"I think I would just say to our counterparts in China that this was a moment of courtesy. The president-elect talked to President Xi two weeks ago in the same manner. It was not a discussion about policy," Pence said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

China's Foreign Ministry said on Saturday it had lodged "stern representations" with what it called the "relevant U.S. side," urging caution on the issue.

Pence said he was not aware of any contact between the Trump transition team and the Chinese government since Friday and did not expect Trump's team to reach out this week to ease tensions with Beijing.

Trump, who vowed during his campaign he would label China a currency manipulator, did not appear to be taking a conciliatory approach on Sunday.

"Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the U.S. doesn't tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don't think so!" Trump said on Twitter.

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