The telephone call between President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and US president-elect Donald Trump has continued to spark debate in Taiwan, with some expressing optimism over the creation of a new model of interaction for Taipei and Washington, while others voiced concerns over a possible return to cross-strait diplomatic rows.
The 10-minute call between Tsai and Trump on Friday evening demonstrated that Trump’s team attaches importance to Taiwan, National Chung Hsing University Graduate Institute of International Politics professor Tsai Ming-yen (蔡明彥) said.
“The call could address the long-term absence of high-level dialogue and interactions between Taiwan and the US... If the Trump camp can withstand inevitable pressure from Beijing over the matter, a new interaction model could be created for Taipei-Washington ties,” Tsai Ming-yen said.
Expressing “cautious optimism” over Taiwan-US relations, Tsai Ming-yen said there have only been routine interactions at lower levels between the two sides.
That Trump singled out the congratulatory call from Tsai Ing-wen among many similar calls from other world leaders and mentioned it on Twitter and Facebook indicated Trump’s and his team’s emphasis on Taiwan, Tsai Ming-yen said.
He said that while China would certainly object to and pressure Washington over the call, the important thing is whether Trump’s team can withstand the pressure.
“If the answer is positive, Taiwan-
US ties would no longer be subjected to Beijing’s reactions and be solely about Taipei and Washington,” he said.
Tsai Ming-yen also called for a “new pillar” to be added to the two traditional pillars of trade and national defense in Taiwan-US ties, saying that the relationship between the two can become more sustainable if they cooperate with each other under the Global Cooperation and Training Framework.
The two sides last year signed a memorandum of understanding on the framework to expand bilateral cooperation in international public health, humanitarian assistance and other global issues.
“High-level US officials have in recent years stressed the importance of a mutually beneficial partnership, one that does not see Taiwan requiring help from the US, but one in which the two sides jointly provide opportunities and assistance to other nations through the cooperation and Taipei’s experience in certain areas,” Tsai Ming-yen said.
Turning to critics who dismissed the call as an attempt by Trump to test the water to secure more benefits from China, Tsai Ming-yen said Taiwan-US ties are not just about business, as they are institutionalized by the Three Joint Communiques and the US’ Taiwan Relations Act.
He also pointed to the first-ever inclusion of a section on senior military exchanges with Taiwan in the US’ National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 as an indicator of the two nation’s friendship.
Meanwhile, lawmakers have been debating the call’s possible effects on cross-strait relations, as some foreign commentators said China would increase its attempts to suppress Taiwan and predicted a possible return to vicious diplomatic competition across the Taiwan Strait.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said there is no need to “scare yourself,” because Taipei-Washington ties are built on significant foundations.
“Also, since there has never been a pause in Beijing’s suppression attempts, it is unnecessary to speculate,” Lo said.
As for the possibility of the DPP government adopting former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) ruthless diplomatic policy, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said Beijing would undoubtedly do everything in its power to prevent that, given its unpleasant dealings with Chen.
However, Chiang said that as the call would be seen as a disgrace by China, it would most likely cause some negative effects on cross-strait ties.
Additional reporting by Chung Li-hua
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