Republican Bob Dole, a former Senator and presidential candidate, has been credited with arranging for Donald Trump's unprecedented phone call with the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen. According to Wall Street Journal reports, the Kansan said that he is affiliated with the law firm that cooperates with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the U.S. The latter serves in place of an embassy because the U.S. and Taiwan currently have no official diplomatic relations. The United States has an equivalent office in Taipei.  Dole said, “It’s fair to say that we may have had some influence.”

When Trump spoke with Tsai on the phone last Friday, he broke with decades of protocol. In 1979, the U.S. broke diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favoring of recognizing the Peoples Republic of China. Taiwan had long maintained that it had sovereignty over the Chinese mainland, while the PRC maintains that Taiwan is but an estranged province. China continues to harass Taiwan. Even last week, Chinese bombers circled the island nation to emphasize the point. This "One China" policy does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country. It has been a hallmark of bilateral U.S./China relations. The break with Taiwan came during the Jimmy Carter administration.

The White House appears to have been blind-sided by Trump's initiative. Yesterday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said relations with China may be "undermined" as a result. "It's unclear exactly what the strategic effort is," Earnest said. "I'll leave that to them to explain."

Trump has stated that he intends to challenge the Chinese on trade and military issues, noting their currency manipulation. 

Incoming Trump administration chief-of-staff Reince Priebus said Trump "knew exactly what was happening" when he spoke with the Taiwanese leader, while Vice President-elect Mike Pence described the exchange as "nothing more than taking a courtesy call of congratulations." Breaking with numerous pundits and Democrat, Marc A. Thiessen wrote an opinion piece at The Washington Post entitled, ""Trump's Taiwan call wasn't a blunder, it was brilliant."  Thiessen, who was a speechwriter for George W. Bush, wrote: 
 
"Trump knew precisely what he was doing in taking the call. He was serving notice on Beijing that it is dealing with a different kind of president — an outsider who will not be encumbered by the same Lilliputian diplomatic threads that tied down previous administrations. The message, as John Bolton correctly put it, was that 'the president of the United States [will] talk to whomever he wants if he thinks it’s in the interest of the United States, and nobody in Beijing gets to dictate who we talk to.'”


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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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