US transition team's statement called setback for Taiwan leader
|This file photo taken on Oct19, 2016 shows US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during the final presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)|
Donald Trump will not meet with Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen ahead of her Latin American trip, a spokeswoman for the US president-elect's transition team said over the weekend.
Jessica Ditto said in an email on Saturday that Trump would not be meeting with Tsai during stopovers in the United States, nor will any member of his transition team, the Associated Press reported.
The statement, issued as the Taiwan leader began her trip on Saturday, was branded a setback for Tsai, who was accused of challenging the one-China principle by making a congratulatory phone call to Trump last month.
Tsai's phone conversation with Trump on Dec 2 broke decades of China-US diplomatic protocol.
The US president-elect later told Fox News that the US does not necessarily have to stick to its long-standing position that Taiwan is part of "one China", challenging the consensus the two countries have upheld for nearly four decades.
Tsai's planned layovers in Houston and San Francisco have gained more attention than her nine-day Latin American visit, in which she will visit Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador.
On Thursday, US Secretary of State John Kerry told his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in a phone call that both the Democratic and Republican parties in the US remain committed to the one-China policy.
Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told AP: "I'm confident that both Taiwan and the US want this transit (in the US) to be low profile. There is nothing to be gained by irritating Beijing."
Wang Hailiang, a researcher of Taiwan studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said Tsai's top goal was to meet with Trump or members of his transition team ahead of her Latin American trip.
"The mainland is watching closely Tsai's arrangement during her transit in the US, and Taiwan will face more punishment if Tsai meets with Trump's transition team," he said.
Last month, the African nation of Sao Tome and Principe restored diplomatic ties with China after cutting official ties with Taipei. The move was seen as a punishment by the mainland for the phone call between Tsai and Trump and a warning to forces who promote "Taiwan independence".
Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said failing to get a meeting with Trump was a setback for Tsai as she is seeking to gain more US support.
It also reflected that Trump is taking a more cautious approach as his inauguration nears, he said, adding that while "a civilian Trump could be tolerated, whatever he talks about, the American people and the world will have little tolerance toward President Trump".