Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) yesterday confirmed that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and former US national security official Stephen Yates met on Wednesday and Yates urged Tsai to keep a low profile during her transit stops in the US on her way to Central America next month.
Speaking on the sidelines of a morning meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, Lee said Tsai and Yates had an in-depth conversation, but he did not know what they discussed because he was not there.
“Yates and I are old acquaintances. When I was stationed in Washington, Yates served as deputy national security adviser to then-US vice president Dick Cheney. We met once or twice every month,” Lee said.
Yates is scheduled to visit him today to discuss Taiwan-US relations, he said.
The ministry is organizing the itinerary for Tsai’s state visit to four diplomatic allies and is still in talks with the US about her transit stops on her way to and from Central America, he said.
New York was never considered for a transit stop, he said, amid rumors that it would allow for the possibility of a meeting with US president-elect Donald Trump, whom she spoke with by telephone on Friday last week.
“The president’s itinerary will be made public by the Presidential Office once the details are finalized,” he said.
Regarding foreign news reports that the call was the result of the government’s orchestrated efforts with a lobbying firm affiliated with former US senator Bob Dole, Lee said it was Taiwanese diplomats who contacted a key aide on Trump’s transition team and no US consulting or lobbying firms that the government works with played a role.
“It was purely a congratulatory phone call, during which discussions of substantial bilateral issues were limited. As President Tsai told US reporters the other day, the call does not suggest a major change in Taiwan-US policy,” Lee said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), who attended the meeting between Tsai and Yates, quoted Yates as saying that Taiwan should be prepared for a tougher stance on trade negotiations once Trump takes office.
The issue of imports of US pork containing ractopamine was not discussed, Lo said.
Yates also called for people-to-people interactions between Taipei and Washington at all levels, including in the areas of trade, investment and acquisitions, Lo said, so that Americans could feel the close ties they have with Taiwanese.
Yates felt that there was no need for Tsai to meet with Trump during a transit stop, but she might engage with ordinary US citizens, Lo said.
Regarding the possibility of changes in the US’ “one China” policy, Lo said regardless of the content of the policy, both sides agreed that there are still many areas of Taiwan-US relations that require effort.
DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), who knows Yates, also attended the three-hour meeting, which was held at the president’s official residence, Lo said.