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Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Call

Mark Landler and David E. Sanger report at The New York Times:
President-elect Donald J. Trump spoke by telephone with Taiwan’s president on Friday, a striking break with nearly four decades of diplomatic practice that could precipitate a major rift with China even before Mr. Trump takes office.
Mr. Trump’s office said he had spoken with the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, “who offered her congratulations.” He is believed to be the first president or president-elect who has spoken to a Taiwanese leader since at least 1979, when the United States severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan as part of its recognition of the People’s Republic of China.
In the statement, Mr. Trump’s office said the two leaders had noted “the close economic, political, and security ties” between Taiwan and the United States. Mr. Trump, it said, “also congratulated President Tsai on becoming President of Taiwan earlier this year.”
Mr. Trump’s motives in taking the call, which lasted more than 10 minutes, were not clear. In a Twitter message late Friday, he said Ms. Tsai “CALLED ME.
But diplomats with ties to Taiwan said it was highly unlikely that the Taiwanese leader would have made the call without arranging it in advance. Ms. Tsai’s office confirmed that it had taken place, saying the two had discussed promoting economic development and “strengthening defense.” Taiwan’s Central News Agency hailed the call as “historic.”
The Financial Times reports:
“It must be pointed out that there is only one China in the world,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday, adding that it had lodged “solemn representations with the US”.

In a barb directed at Mr Trump’s unprecedented pre-inauguration intervention in Sino-US relations, the foreign ministry urged “the relevant parties . . . to handle issues related to Taiwan with caution and care in order to avoid unnecessary interference with overall Sino-US relations”

Although it is not clear if the Trump transition team intended the conversation to signal a broader change in US policy towards Taiwan, the call has ruffled feathers in Beijing.
The formal protest marked an escalation from comments earlier on Saturday by China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, who appeared to blame Ms Tsai for the call. In an interview with a Hong Kong television station, Mr Wang dismissed the phone call as a “petty action” on Taiwan’s part.
And the conflict-of-interest presidency takes shape.Nicola Smith reports at The Guardian:
Weeks before President-elect Donald Trump’s controversial phone call with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, a businesswoman claiming to be associated with his conglomerate made inquiries about a major investment in building luxury hotels as part of the island’s new airport development.

The woman, known only as Ms Chen arrived from the US in September to meet the mayor of Taoyuan, Cheng Wen-tsan, one of the senior politicians involved in the Aerotropolis project, a large urban development being planned around the renovation of Taiwan’s main airport, Taoyuan International.
“She said she was associated with the Trump corporation and she would like to propose a possible investment project in the future, especially hotels,” said an official familiar with the project, who spoke on condition of anonymity.