Pence: Taiwan talks were a ‘courtesy call’
“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 (Jinping) two weeks ago in the same manner that was not a discussion about policy,” Pence said. “And we’re going to be preparing after January 20 to advance now what will be President Trump’s agenda on the world stage and we’ll deal with policy at that time.”
Todd asked Pence whether Trump is likely to call Chinese leaders to calm the waters this week.
And Pence responded by comparing media coverage of Trump’s Taiwan call with Obama’s policy changes toward Cuba before the death of Fidel Castro.
“I wouldn’t expect so. But to be honest with you, the waters here seem like a little bit of a tempest in a teapot,” Pence said.
“I mean, it’s striking to be that President Obama would reach out to a murdering dictator in Cuba and be hailed as a hero. And President-elect Donald Trump takes a courtesy call from the democratically-elected president of Taiwan and it becomes something of a thing in the media.”
Pence added: “I think most Americans and frankly most leaders around the world know this for what it was. And it’s all part and parcel. I think you’re going to see in a President Donald Trump a willingness to engage the world but engage the world on America’s terms.”
Pence was also pressed on Trump’s call with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in which Trump offered to “play any role that you want me to play” — a remark that raised eyebrows in India, which has not asked for the United States’ help in settling the dispute over the contested Kashmir region.
“Well, clearly there’s been great tension between India and Pakistan in recent days, which resulted in violence along the Kashmir region. And I think what the President-elect expressed in conversations with leaders from both countries was a desire for continued US engagement on building the relationship with both of those countries,” Pence said. “These are two nuclear powers, the President-elect recognizes that. And making sure that they know that when this administration takes office, that we intend to be fully engaged in the region and fully engaged with both nations to advance peace and security.”
Asked if Trump would be a mediator over Kashmir, Pence said: “I think you’re also going to see an energetic leadership in the world, prepared to engaged and to look for ways that he can bring those extraordinary deal-making skills to bear on lessening tensions and solving problems in the world.”
Pence deflected a question about why Trump hasn’t more frequently taken advantage of briefings such as the Presidential Daily Briefing, an intelligence update, or State Department updates on protocol before his calls with foreign leaders, noting that Trump had received some of those briefs.
“The President-elect and I have had the privilege now of receiving the presidential daily briefs and we’re receiving the formal briefings that come about national security during the course of the transition. And I know the President-elect has been briefed as he’s been making these calls,” Pence said.
“President-elect Trump has already spoken to more than 50 leaders around the world,” he said. “He’s been briefed. Those have been courtesy conversations, but it’s all part and parcel of beginning the kinds of relationships that will allow our new President to advance America’s interests in the world.”
Pence wouldn’t say who Trump is likely to select for secretary of state, though he listed five men when asked about the job: 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Gen. David Petraeus, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker and former UN Ambassador John Bolton.
Asked whether Petraeus’ conviction for mishandling classified information would disqualify him, Pence said: “It’ll be the President-elect’s decision about the totality of General Petraeus’s experience in background. But I first met General Petraeus when he was commanding 101st Airborne in Iraq, and then I saw him martial the plan and the resources for what became the successful surge in Iraq. He’s an American hero and he has our great respect.”
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