Trump President-elect talk with Taiwan leader a 'courtesy call' - VP-elect

Washington cut formal diplomatic relations with the island in 1979 and recognizes Beijing as the sole government of "One China"

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US President-elect Donald Trump broke with decades of foreign policy to speak with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen play

US President-elect Donald Trump broke with decades of foreign policy to speak with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen

(AFP)
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President-elect Donald Trump's controversial telephone conversation with the leader of Taiwan was just a "courtesy call," US Vice President-elect Mike Pence said Sunday.

"It was nothing more than taking a courtesy call from a democratically elected leader," Pence told ABC's "This Week" program, speaking about the Friday call between Trump and Taiwan's Tsai Ing-wen, which broke decades of US diplomatic policy and risks creating a serious rift with China.

Washington cut formal diplomatic relations with the island in 1979 and recognizes Beijing as the sole government of "One China" -- while keeping friendly, non-official ties with Taipei.

China regards self-ruling Taiwan as part of its own territory awaiting reunification, and any US move implying support for independence -- even calling Tsai "president," as Trump did in a tweet announcing the call -- prompts grave offense in China.

Trump "took the call, accepted her congratulations and good wishes and it was precisely that," Pence said.

US Vice President-elect Mike Pence play

US Vice President-elect Mike Pence

(Getty/AFP/File)

Pence was asked directly if there were any implications for the "One China" policy.

"We'll deal with policy after January the 20th," he said, referring to the day that Trump takes office.

Chinese state media said that Trump's "inexperience" led him to accept the phone call, but warned that any breach of the "One China" stance would "destroy" Sino-US relations.

Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Trump aide Kellyanne Conway said that her boss "is well aware" of Washington's "One-China" policy.

"It was just a phone call at this point. It signals the fact that he accepted a congratulatory call," Conway said.

"I know China has a perspective on it. The White House and State Department probably have a perspective on it. Certainly Taiwan has a perspective on it. The president-elect's perspective is he accepted a congratulatory call.

"When he's sworn in as commander-in-chief, he'll make clear the fullness of his plans. But people shouldn't read too much into it," she said.

Since his surprise November 8 victory Trump has accepted congratulatory calls from numerous leaders, including the prime ministers or presidents of Israel, Singapore, Japan and China, Conway said.

Trump "is not out there making policy or announcing new policy prescriptions worldwide. He's merely taking phone calls," Conway said.

"We know about 'One China.' He knows about 'One China.' He's routinely briefed on these matters. That just is what it is," she added.

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