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Trump-Tsai call a 'good, small' step: Ex-Cheney aide

2016/12/06 19:12

Taipei, Dec. 6 (CNA) A former White House official said on Tuesday that the recent call between U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was an "important step" in the direction many Republicans have advocated for, but added that the move remains a "small step," during a visit to Taiwan.

"We should not over-analyze or overreact to the fact that your current and our future leader spoke by phone," said Stephen Yates, deputy national security adviser to then-U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney during the George W. Bush administration, during a media conference in Taipei.

Noting that it is reasonable for the people of Taiwan to expect friendly relations from the incoming administration in the United States, he said "it would not be reasonable to anticipate major changes in U.S. policy at this point."

Yates arrived in Taiwan earlier Tuesday for a private visit. However, his visit has received much media attention in Taiwan because of speculation that he played a role in arranging the phone call between Trump and Tsai last Friday.

However, Yates denied any involvement, saying that the call was arranged by Trump's transition team and was initiated by "the person offering congratulations."

He described the call as "a very good, small step," but denied that he played a role in it coming about, saying that he was in Idaho when Trump and Tsai spoke.

He added that he has no affiliation with Trump's transition team and to date has not been offered any position in the new administration.

Commenting on the call, Yates said he was "thrilled" that Trump agreed to receive Tsai's "congratulatory phone call."

He said that as an active member of the Republican National Committee and a former White House official, he cares a lot about helping to ensure the success of Trump's transition team and the incoming administration and that he speaks "with friends in the transition from time to time."

The Trump-Tsai call was the first interaction of its kind since the U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in January 1979.

The call raised many eyebrows in the U.S., with critics and media outlets saying Trump broke diplomatic convention and risked upsetting U.S. relations with China.

Commenting on the issue, Yates rejected all the criticism. "I do not believe that accepting a courtesy phone call of congratulations is provocative," he said.

He also noted that "it is not changing policy to take a phone call."

According to accounts from both sides, Tsai called Trump to congratulate him on winning the U.S. presidential election and Trump extended his congratulations on her electoral victory early this year.

In their conversation that lasted more than 10 minutes, the two leaders also discussed economic and defense issues, and Tsai expressed her hope for more bilateral exchanges and contacts.

Yates is currently chairman of the Idaho Republican Party and was one of those responsible for including the "Six Assurances" given to Taiwan by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1982 and the Taiwan Relations Act in the Republican Party's platform at its national convention in July.

(By Elaine Hou)ENDITEM/AW