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Jon Huntsman Jr.: Trump’s ‘nontraditional thinking’ could signal a new approach to U.S.-China relations

First Published      Last Updated Dec 03 2016 08:36 pm


Ex-U.S. ambassador says Taiwan might be “useful leverage” in China dealings.

Donald Trump's unconventional phone conversation with Taiwan's leader might signal a fresh approach to a "complex and sensitive" relationship, said former Utah Governor and U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman Jr.

Trump tweeted that the Friday call was made by Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen and that it was "interesting" that he was criticized for taking it, given that the U.S. sells weapons to the self-governing island despite China's sovereignty claim.

The Associated Press reported Saturday that Huntsman is a candidate for secretary of state. Huntsman served an LDS mission in Taiwan and later worked there before serving as ambassador to China during the first term of President Barack Obama. He told The Tribune on Saturday that Trump "provides an element of nontraditional thinking and action that may result in new ways of approaching the one-China framework."




Speaking earlier to Fox News and The New York Times, Huntsman characterized Tsai's call as "shrewd" and said it "shouldn't surprise anybody" that Trump answered it. Taiwan might prove a "useful leverage point" in dealings with China, Huntsman told The Times.

"Having lived in Taiwan twice and having lived in China once, there's a little too much hyperventilating about this one," he said on Fox News.

According to the Associated Press, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi characterized the conversation as "a small trick by Taiwan," and the foreign ministry expressed its "solemn reservations" with the U.S. But Huntsman told Fox News that based on his experience, "They're not making it too big a deal."

It's important, Huntsman told The Tribune, that Trump consider a broader strategy that accommodates both U.S. and Chinese interests.

He told Fox News: "The issue should be this: Does Taiwan deserve a little more space? We share values, they have a big economy, we trade, they have a civil society that is large and robust and mature, and we ought to be giving them a little more space. If that kind of comes out of this whole discussion, that people recognize that Taiwan may be a little different than they thought, then maybe that should kind of create a template for the way that the new Trump administration sees the region."

Huntsman said in an email to The Salt Lake Tribune earlier this week that if Sen. Orrin Hatch decides against another run, Huntsman is open to vying for his seat.

He has not said whether he voted for Trump after calling for Trump to leave the race when an "Access Hollywood" tape showed Trump describing aggressive sexual conduct toward women.

tburr@sltrib.com

Twitter: @thomaswburr

— Editor's note: The owner and publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune is Paul Huntsman, who is the brother of Jon Huntsman Jr.

 

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