Pence: Obama Can Reach Out to Cuban Dictator, But Trump Can't Take Call From Taiwan's Leader?

By Susan Jones | December 5, 2016 | 5:21am EST
China awoke Monday, Dec. 5, to criticism from Trump on Twitter, days after it responded to his telephone conversation with Taiwan's president by accusing the Taiwanese of playing a "little trick" on Trump. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz, Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Luis Hidalgo, Files)

( - The American people are "encouraged" to see President-elect Trump "taking calls from the world, speaking to the world," including the democratically elected leader of Taiwan, Vice President-elect Mike Pence told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday.

"But I think it all begins with relationships, and...that was nothing more than taking a courtesy call of congratulations from the democratically elected leader of Taiwan."

China, which claims Taiwan as its own, has complained about Trump's contact on Friday with the leader of Taiwan, a breach of longstanding diplomatic protocol. The United States, under President Jimmy Carter, broke off formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979, in deference to communist China, but the U.S. maintains unofficial ties with Taiwan to this day.

Pence told "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos, "It's a little mystifying to me that President Obama can -- can reach out to a murdering dictator in -- in Cuba in the last year and be hailed as a hero for doing it and President-elect Donald Trump takes a courtesy call from a democratically elected leader in Taiwan and it's become -- it's become something of a controversy, because I think the American people appreciate the fact that -- that our president-elect is taking calls from and reaching out to the world and preparing on day one to lead America on the world stage."

Stephanopoulos asked Pence if Trump is signaling changes in U.S. policy toward China.

Pence said the Trump administration will deal with China policy after inauguration day.

"On day one, will he label China a currency manipulator?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"Well, he said that over the course of the campaign. And the truth of the matter is a lot is going to change in America's economic policies -- not just with regard to China, but with regard to the North American Free Trade Agreement, with regard to -- look, we -- we've been -- America has been losing too much in jobs and economic growth on the world stage.

"And I think people can count on the fact that -- that President-elect Donald Trump, when he raises his right hand, is going to walk into the Oval Office and he's going to -- he's going to become a champion for Americans on the world stage."

"So he will follow through on that promise?" Stephanopoulos tried again:

"Well, he's -- he's going to fight for American jobs and -- and we're going to stop losing to China and to other countries," Pence replied.

"Does that mean labeling them a currency manipulator?" Stephanopoulos asked again.

"It -- it will be for the president-elect to decide whether he implements that policy after inauguration. He spoke about that in the course of the campaign," Pence said. "But look, it's all about a process. He spoke to President Xi in China two weeks ago. They had a great conversation. He's begun the relationship there," Pence said.

"But after January 20, our new president will make decisions about what the policy of the United States will be. But I promise you, America is going to start winning on world stage again and winning economically and -- and he'll make the right decisions..."

Pence said Trump made it clear during the campaign that "we've been losing to China far too long economically. And it's -- it's time -- the time has come, the American people have elected a president who, not just with regard to China, but with other countries around the world, and even in our hemisphere, that -- that we're going to put American workers and American jobs first and we're going to have a president that makes sure we have trade deals and we advance policies -- economic policies on the world stage that accomplish that."

Appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation," Reince Priebus, Trump's incoming chief of staff, said Trump did not believe he was talking to the leader of a sovereign state when he accepted the congratulatory phone call from the leader of Taiwan.

"No, of course not," Priebus said. "He knew exactly what was happening. But, look, we have got a lot of problems to solve in this country, and we're not going to solve them by just making believe that people don't exist. This was a two-minute congratulatory call. He talked to (Chinese) President Xi over two weeks ago. I'm sure he'd be willing to talk with him again.

"This is not a massive deviation of our policy," Priebus continued. "But President Trump has made it clear that he's going to work with China, PRC, to make sure that we have a better deal, that we have better trade agreements, and that we do a better job in protecting the American worker. And he's going to continue to do it.

"So, courtesy call, not a change in policy?" host John Dickerson asked.

"Exactly," Priebus said.

In two tweets on Sunday -- something CNN is calling a "twitter tirade" -- Trump asked the following question: "Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into..their country (the U.S. doesn't tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea?  I don't think so!"

On Friday, Trump tweeted: "Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call."

MRC Store