WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s phone conversation with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday, which prompted a diplomatic protest from China, was simply a “courtesy call,” Vice President-elect Mike Pence said on NBC on Sunday.
Asked whether any shift in policy should be read into the call, Pence said: “I don’t think so.” The call with Tsai was the first by a U.S. president-elect or president with a Taiwanese leader since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979.
“This was a courtesy call. The democratically elected president of Taiwan called to congratulate the president-elect,” Pence said.
China’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday it has lodged “stern representations” with what it called the “relevant U.S. side,” urging the careful handling of the Taiwan issue to avoid any unnecessary disturbances in ties.
Pence said he was not aware of any contact between the Trump transition team and the Chinese government since Friday, and did not expect Trump’s team would reach out this week to ease tensions with China, which claims Taiwan as its own.
Pence said the call was similar in nature to one between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping after the Nov. 8 election.
“I think I would just say to our counterparts in China that this was a moment of courtesy. The president-elect talked to President Xi two weeks ago in the same manner. It was not a discussion about policy,” Pence said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Trump lambasted China throughout the U.S. election campaign, pledging to label the country a currency manipulator on his first day in office.
Asked on ABC’s “This Week” whether Trump would make good on that pledge, Pence said decisions on policy would come after Trump takes office on Jan. 20.
“It will be for the president-elect to decide whether he implements that policy after the inauguration,” Pence said.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and John Whitesides; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)
IMAGE: Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence holds a joint news conference with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) (not pictured) following a House Republican party conference meeting in Washington, U.S. September 13, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst