Obama: China Would Not Take US Policy Change Lightly

Outgoing US president warns of “consequences”, if his successor persists in questioning China’s core views as a nation
Donald Trump features on the first page of a Chinese paper after his talk with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.Donald Trump features on the first page of a Chinese paper after his talk with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

US President Barack Obama said on Friday it was fine for president-elect, Donald Trump, to review Washington’s “one-China” policy toward Taiwan, but he cautioned that a shift could lead to significant consequences in the US relationship with Beijing.

“For China, the issue of Taiwan is as important as anything on their docket,” Obama told a news conference. “The idea of one China is at the heart of their conception as a nation and so if you are going to upend this understanding, you have to have thought through what the consequences are.”

According to Reuters, China lodged a diplomatic protest earlier this month after Trump spoke by phone with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen.

The 10-minute telephone call was the first of its kind by a US president-elect or president since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, acknowledging Taiwan as part of “one China”.

China considers Taiwan a wayward province, to be taken back by force if necessary.

Obama noted that, under the decades-old policy, China had recognized Taiwan was its own entity that did things its own way, while Taiwan had agreed that, with some autonomy, it would not declare independence.

“That status quo, although not completely satisfactory to any of the parties involved, has kept the peace and allowed the Taiwanese to be a pretty successful economy and a people who have a high degree of self-determination,” Obama said.

The outgoing president said he had advised Trump that foreign policy had to be conducted in a systematic, deliberate, intentional way.

“There’s probably no bilateral relationship that carries more significance and where there’s also the potential, if that relationship breaks down or goes into a full conflict mode, that everybody is worse off,” he said of the US-China ties.

He said Beijing would not treat a departure from US policy toward Taiwan lightly.

“The Chinese will not treat that the way they’ll treat some other issues. They won’t even treat it the way they treat issues around the South China Sea, where we’ve had a lot of tensions,” he said.

Taiwan reiterated it was committed to keeping the status quo in its relations with China and in promoting peace and stability, and thanked Washington for deepening US-Taiwan relations.

A statement from Taiwan’s Presidential Office said Tsai’s government looked forward to strengthening that relationship under Trump’s administration.

  Russian Hack

Speaking on Friday at what is likely to be his last White House news conference, Obama vowed to finally present evidence of Russia’s involvement in cyberattacks on US political organizations.

“We will provide evidence that we can safely provide, that does not compromise sources and methods. But I’ll be honest with you, when you’re talking about cybersecurity, a lot of it is classified and we are not going to provide it, because the way we catch folks is by knowing certain things about them that they don’t want us to know,” Obama said adding that the information has already been submitted to Congress leaders.

“The intelligence I’ve seen gives me great confidence in their assessment that the Russians carried out this hack—the hack of the DNC and the hack of John Podesta,” the president continued, referring to mass leaks that marred the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence formally attributed the leaks to Russia in early October.

Russia has repeatedly rejected the accusations. The Russian president’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said earlier in the day that the US should “either stop talking or finally present some proof, otherwise it begins to look unseemly”.

The reports were also refuted by other sources, including Julian Assange, the founder of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks that published the emails from Clinton’s campaign manager John D. Podesta and servers of the Democratic National Committee.

Although Obama hinted that “not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin,” he stopped short of accusing him directly, adding that the final determination of the Russian president’s role not be announced until the review is complete.

He reiterated his earlier comments in which he vowed to take action in response.

“Our goal continues to be to send a clear message to Russia or others not do this to us because we can do stuff to you,” he said.

The US president also defended the White House’s handling of the situation.

“When I look back at how we handled it, I think we handled it the way it should have been handled,” Obama said.

The president added that there were no attempts to tamper with the voting and the vote count itself.

“We did not see further tampering of the election process,” he said.

The US president held his last press conference at the White House on Friday.


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