The White House rushed in Monday to reassure China that the U.S. will uphold the “one China” policy and will not use Taiwan as leverage for negotiations, even as the incoming administration seems increasingly likely to adjust or suspend that policy.
President-elect Donald Trump surprised and infuriated China by breaking away from several decades of diplomatic practice and protocol and accepting a Dec. 2 phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Trump has since defended his actions multiple times in the face of numerous complaints from Beijing and domestic critics.
“I don’t want China dictating to me,” Trump said Sunday during an interview with Fox News. “Why should some other nation be able to say I can’t take a call?”
“I fully understand the ‘one China’ policy, but I don’t know why we have to be bound by a ‘one China’ policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade,” Trump commented.
His comment suggests that he might be interested in using one of China’s “core interests” as leverage.
“We’re being hurt very badly by China with devaluation, with taxing us heavy at the borders when we don’t tax them, with building a massive fortress in the middle of the South China Sea, which they shouldn’t be doing, and frankly with not helping us at all with North Korea,” Trump added.
The White House said Monday that it is committed to the “one China” policy and that Taiwan will not be treated as a “bargaining chip,” Reuters revealed.
“The United States does not view Taiwan and our relationship with Taiwan as a bargaining chip. Taiwan is not a source of leverage, it’s a close partner of the United States,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday, “And bargaining that away is not something that this administration believes is our best interest.”
The White House has walked back Trump’s actions and statements regarding Taiwan twice following outbursts from China.
“There is no change to our long-standing policy on cross-Strait issues,” U.S. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said last Monday. “We remain firmly committed to our ‘one China’ policy based on the three Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest expressed America’s “continued commitment to a one-China policy.” He argued that the “one China” policy is intended to maintain peace between China and Taiwan, stressing that the policy is in America’s best interests.
Lt. Colonel Ralph Peters said it best on Fox News last year when talking about Obama: