WASHINGTON, Dec 18 (Reuters) - President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming White House chief of staff on Sunday played down the prospect that Trump would revisit Washington’s decades-old “one China” policy, even though he suggested as much a week ago.
Since 1979, the United States has acknowledged Taiwan as part of “one China” but Trump prompted a diplomatic protest from Beijing after he accepted a congratulatory phone call on his election win from President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan on Dec. 2.
“We are not suggesting that we’re revisiting ‘one China’ policy right now,” Trump aide Reince Priebus said on “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”
“He is not president right now and he’s respectful to the current president,” Priebus said.
Last Sunday, Trump himself said in an interview on Fox News Sunday: “I fully understand the ‘one China’ policy, but I don’t know why we have to be bound by a ‘one China’ policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.”
Political analysts said that the call with the president of Taiwan and the comments on the “one China” policy could antagonize Beijing.
Trump also inserted himself on Saturday into another sensitive dispute between China and the United States after China on Thursday seized an underwater drone owned by the U.S. military in the South China Sea. Trump called the seizure an “unprecedented act.”
U.S. officials described the seizure as the first of its kind in recent memory. It was taken about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay off the Philippines just as the USNS Bowditch was about to retrieve it, the officials said.
Although China vowed to return the drone to the United States, Trump later tweeted that the U.S. should let China keep it.
Priebus on Sunday defended the comments on the drone, saying he does not believe Trump’s comments were provocative and that “80 percent” of Americans agree it was inappropriate for China to have seized the drone in the first place. (Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; reporting by Grant McCool)