President-elect Donald Trump’s historic chat with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen on Friday continues to stir controversy in global diplomatic circles and remains a huge story in Taiwan, where arriving Idaho GOP chairman Stephen Yates was met Tuesday by a scrum of reporters wanting to know more about his involvement in the call.
According to the Taiwan News, Yates, an Asian expert who speaks fluent Chinese, was “surrounded by media” when he arrived early Tuesday at Taoyuan International Airport and quizzed on whether his visit would include a meeting with Tsai. Visiting as a guest of a Taiwan think tank, Yates said he didn’t know what his schedule would entail.
A former national security adviser for Vice President Dick Cheney under President George W. Bush, Yates came to attention when he was identified as one of the people who facilitated the Trump-Tsai call, which undid nearly 40 years of diplomatic protocol in U.S.-Chinese relations and riled mainland China.
Yates, speaking to the Statesman on Saturday, said he has advised the Trump transition informally on Asia matters but was not responsible for arranging Tsai’s congratulatory call. He did, however, fully endorse Trump’s decision to take the call, outlining his position in a column that appeared in the Statesman and Fox News, among other news sites.
Conversing with local reporters mostly in Mandarin, Yates, according to the Taiwan paper, “urged the mainland not to overreact, adding that Trump was just kindly taking a congratulatory call from Taiwan and his foreign policy will be up and running after taking office.”
He told reporters Trump “has been known for speaking straightforward, so there is nothing wrong with referring (to Tsai as) ‘President of Taiwan’,” the paper reported.
The title is an affront to mainland China, which regards Taiwan as renegade province, and U.S.-China relations have maintained an awkward arms-length distance from the subject since the U.S. formally recognized Beijing as the seat of Chinese government in 1979.
“If American or Chinese people want to interact with Taiwanese, they should use truth as the basis,” the paper quoted Yates as saying.
Yates heads a consulting firm that advises clients on overseas political risk and business opportunity. The firm’s work is research and assessment, not lobbying or public relations. Yates said the firm has only private sector clients in Taiwan.