The relationship between US President-elect Donald Trump and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen will apparently stay purely on the phone for the time being with Taiwan’s foreign ministry denying reports that Tsai is planning on meeting with Trump in New York as she transits to Central America.
In fact, Taiwanese Foreign Minister David Lee went so far as to deny that Tsai will even visit New York, saying that there are four possible places where Tsai could stop over during her trip, but New York is not one of those options. A meeting between Trump and Tsai “can’t possibly happen,” he concluded.
Lee’s rebuttal came after reports from Taiwanese media that Tsai was planning to embark on a trip to several Latin American countries in January, and on the way she would transit through New York and perhaps meet with the president-elect before his inauguration.
Tsai’s travel plans come at a particularly sensitive time in cross-strait relations following a phone call last Friday between Trump and Tsai that shattered 35 years of US foreign policy protocol.
Following the call, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi blamed the Taiwanese side for shady “shenanigans” preying on Trump’s total lack of foreign policy experience. Already deeply distrustful of Tsai for her refusal to accept the “one China” principle, Beijing has become more suspicious than ever about the independence-leaning Taiwanese leader.
After reports of the trip were leaked, China asked Washington to block Tsai from transiting through the US in order to avoid sending “any wrong signals to ‘Taiwan independence’ forces.” While Washington has yet to issue an official response, when asked about the trip at a regular media briefing White House spokesperson Mark Toner said that while he had no information on whether Tsai would meet with American officials, “What I can say about that is that that kind of transit is based on long-standing US practice, and it’s consistent with the unofficial nature of our relations with Taiwan.”
An adviser to Trump’s transition also called a Tsai-Trump meeting in New York “very unlikely.”
While Tsai may not get to meet with Trump himself, she has already met with one of his transition advisers, Stephen Yates, a Taiwan affairs expert who is reported to be one of the people behind last week’s protocol-shattering phone call. The two had an “in-depth conversation” at Tsai’s home on Wednesday.
According to Lee, Yates advised the Taiwnese President to meet with ordinary American citizens, not Trump, while transiting through, and suggested that she foster “grassroots ties with the US.
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