HONG KONG -- China's Foreign Ministry filed a formal complaint with the U.S. on Saturday after President-elect Donald Trump flouted almost four decades of diplomatic protocol by directly speaking with the leader of Taiwan, which Beijing considers a rogue province.
Trump also was said to have spoken separately with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
China's complaint on Saturday urged U.S. authorities to adhere to the so-called one-China principle. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Trump's Friday telephone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was a "small trick by Taiwan."
Noting that the Foreign Ministry had filed a formal complaint with the U.S. government, a statement urged "relevant parties in the U.S." to "deal with the Taiwan issue in a prudent, proper manner."
The measured response suggested China's desire to keep the exchange from escalating into a crisis before Trump enters the White House or even appoints a full foreign policy team. Statements from Trump's transition team and his subsequent comments on Twitter left unclear whether the call presaged a shift in long-standing U.S. policy against recognizing Taiwan's sovereignty or allowing direct communication between leaders.
"This could be potentially explosive, but now is not the right time for Beijing to make the formal call on Trump's Taiwan policy because he's yet to take office," said Wang Fan, director of China Foreign Affairs University's Institute of International Relations. "He's still learning and doing his homework."
But Wang Dong, an associate professor at the School of International Studies at Peking University, warned Saturday that Trump's move is a "wake-up call."
"There was a sort of delusion based on overly optimistic ideas about Trump. That should stop," Dong said.
The U.S. broke diplomatic ties with Taiwan and officially recognized the Communist government in Beijing in 1979. Still, it has maintained a close relationship with the democratically run island -- often to China's anger -- and is legally required to provide military support and protection. President Barack Obama announced a $1.8 billion arms sale to Taiwan in 2015, drawing protests from Beijing.
Since 2009, the Obama administration has approved $14 billion in arms sales to Taiwan.
Trump's transition team said in a statement that Taiwan's president congratulated the Republican on his victory and that the two "noted the close economic, political and security ties" between the two sides. The call lasted more than 10 minutes, Taiwan's presidential office said in an emailed statement.
Trump later said on Twitter: "The President of Taiwan called me today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!" Part of the tweet was in all capital letters. "Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call," he continued.
The call was planned with the knowledge of Trump's transition team and was the right thing to do, said Stephen Yates, a former U.S. national security official who served under former President George W. Bush.
Yates denied multiple media reports that he arranged the call, while adding that it doesn't make sense for the U.S. to be "stuck" in a pattern of acquiescing to China over Taiwan.
"If people are going to have these sort of hyperbolic -- and, in my view, 'Chicken Little' reactions -- to a phone call, imagine what it's going to be like when we have real, substantive differences," Yates said Saturday.
Engaging directly with Taiwan might lead instead to "some sense of rebalancing" of U.S. relations with Taiwan and China, Yates said. "The Chinese have imposed thought control, verbal control, behavior control on the United States," he said.
Taiwan is considered a sensitive issue between the U.S. and China, which were each other's biggest trading partners last year, exchanging goods and services worth $627 billion.
The island of 23.5 million people has been ruled separately since 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek moved the Republic of China government there at the end of the Chinese Civil War.
While ties between Beijing and Taipei have improved over the decades, China continues to have about 1,200 missiles aimed across the Taiwan Strait and has asserted its right to invade as a way to prevent any formal split. Tensions have increased since Tsai's landslide election win in January. Her party officially supports independence, and she has refused calls to reaffirm the one-China principle.
Taiwanese newspapers ran banner headlines today about the call, and two noted on their front pages that Trump referred to Tsai as "the president of Taiwan," a formulation that would mark a shift in U.S. policy and irk China, which regards any recognition of a Taiwanese leader as a head of state as unacceptable.
Taiwan's presidential office spokesman, Alex Huang, said after the call that Taiwan's relations with China and "healthy" Taiwan-U.S. relations can proceed in parallel. "There is no conflict" in that, he said.
Wang, China's foreign minister, said Saturday that the call wouldn't affect consensus of the international community that recognized the government in Beijing, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
"I don't think it will change the one-China policy of the U.S. government, either," he said on the sidelines of a foreign policy seminar.
Trump has yet to name a secretary of state. The White House last week encouraged Trump's team to reach out to experienced U.S. State Department officials as the president-elect continues to field calls from world leaders.
Talks with Duterte, Ghani
The Philippines' Duterte said Saturday that during his telephone call with Trump, the president-elect wished for Duterte's success in his crackdown on illegal drugs. Duterte added that he assured Trump that the Philippines would maintain its ties with the U.S. -- a departure from Duterte's hostility toward the Obama administration.
Duterte has lashed out at Obama, the State Department, European Union and United Nations officials, and human-rights groups for raising concerns over the crackdown, which has left more than 4,000 suspected drug dealers and users dead, including many who are feared to have been gunned down in gangland-style killings.
Duterte called to congratulate Trump late Friday in their first talk, which was described by an aide of the Philippine president as "very engaging, animated conversation" in which both leaders invited each other to visit his country.
In a video released by Duterte's close aide, Bong Go, the Philippine leader is seen smiling while talking to Trump and saying, "We will maintain ... and enhance the bilateral ties between our two countries."
The other parts of the conversation were not aired in the video, but in a statement released by his aides, Duterte said Trump "was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem."
"He understood the way we are handling it, and I said that there's nothing wrong in protecting a country," Duterte said. "It was a bit very encouraging in the sense that I supposed that what he really wanted to say was that we would be the last to interfere in the affairs of your own country."
"He said that ... well, we are doing it as a sovereign nation, the right way," Duterte said in his statement. It was unclear whether he or Trump remarked that the widely criticized crackdown was being carried out properly.
The Afghan government, in a statement Saturday, said Trump and Ghani had emphasized their joint commitment to fighting terrorism.
Ghani's office said he congratulated Trump on his victory and expressed hopes for further cooperation between the countries under Trump's administration.
The statement said Ghani emphasized the dedication of Afghan security forces in defending Afghan territorial integrity and expressed admiration for the sacrifices of U.S. and NATO troops in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.
Information for this article was contributed by Ting Shi, Jennifer Jacobs, Nick Wadhams, John McCluskey, Keith Zhai, Debra Mao, Jun Luo and Chris Strohm of Bloomberg News; by Gillian Wong, Johnson Lai, Jim Gomez, Jonathan Lemire, Matthew Pennington, Nomaan Merchant, Henry Hou, Darlene Superville and staff members of The Associated Press; and by Jane Perlez of The New York Times.
A Section on 12/04/2016
Print Headline: Trump-Taiwan call draws Beijing outcry