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Taiwan president says phone call with Trump can take place again

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Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said a direct phone call with US President Donald Trump could take place again and urged the self-ruled island's political rival China to step up to its global responsibility to keep the peace as a large nation.

[TAIPEI] Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said a direct phone call with US President Donald Trump could take place again and urged the self-ruled island's political rival China to step up to its global responsibility to keep the peace as a large nation.

"We have the opportunity to communicate more directly with the US government," Ms Tsai told Reuters in an exclusive interview on Thursday. "We don't exclude the opportunity to call President Trump himself, but it depends on the needs of the situation and the US government's consideration of regional affairs." The interview was the first since Mr Trump, as US President-elect, took a congratulatory phone call from Ms Tsai in early December.

It was the first contact between leaders of the two sides in nearly four decades and he cast doubt on Washington's long-standing policy of acknowledging Beijing's "one China" policy.

Since then, however, Mr Trump agreed to honour the "one China" policy in February and then hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Florida resort earlier this month.

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Despite this, Ms Tsai said Taiwan's ties with the United States, its biggest political ally and arms supplier, have been improving. She added that Taiwan may need to buy the most advanced stealth jet the United States has.

"We don't rule out any items that would be meaningful to our defence and our defence strategy and the F-35 is one such item,"said Ms Tsai, in the first remarks by a top Taiwanese official on the matter.

As part of arms talks, Taiwan will eventually have to submit a weapons purchase list to Washington. Ms Tsai said, however, that senior officials are not yet in place in the Trump administration to handle the issue.

China's Defence Ministry said on Thursday it was resolutely opposed to any country selling arms to Taiwan.

Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun made the comment at a monthly news briefing in Beijing when asked about the possible sale of F-35 fighter jets from the United States to Taiwan.

Speaking from her Presidential Office as she nears her first year anniversary in office, Ms Tsai urged Mr Xi to act like a leader.

"China now needs to have its own sense of responsibility," Ms Tsai said. "I hope Chairman Xi Jinping, as a leader of a large country and who sees himself as a leader, can show a pattern and flexibility, use a different angle to look at cross-Strait relations, and allow the future of cross-Strait ties to have a different kind of pattern."

China claims Taiwan as its own under its "one China" policy, but democratic Taiwan, self-ruled since 1949, has no interest in being ruled by autocratic China. Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.

REUTERS

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