US President elect Donald Trump greets supporters at election night rally in Manhattan, New York, US, November 9, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

President-elect Donald Trump said the United States did not necessarily have to stick to its long-standing position that Taiwan is part of “one China,” questioning nearly four decades of policy in a move likely to antagonize Beijing.

Trump’s comments on Fox News Sunday came after he prompted a diplomatic protest from China over his decision to accept a telephone call on December 2 from Taiwan’s president.

“I fully understand the ‘one China’ policy, but I don’t know why we have to be bound by a ‘one China’ policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade,” Trump told Fox.

Chinese officials had no immediate reaction to Trump’s remarks but they prompted an online response from the nationalistic Global Times which warned that the ‘one China’ policy is “non-negotiable” and dropping it could lead to Beijing supporting US enemies.

“The one-China policy cannot be traded,” the commentary said, calling Trump “as ignorant of diplomacy as a child”. It said if the US openly supports Taiwan’s independence and ramps up arms sales to the democratically self-ruled island, China could aid “forces hostile to the US.”

Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province and the subject is a sensitive one for China.

After Trump’s phone conversation with Taiwan’s president, the Obama administration said senior White House aides had spoken with Chinese officials to insist that Washington’s “one China” policy remained intact. The administration also warned that progress made in the US relationship with China could be undermined by a “flaring up” of the Taiwan issue.

Following Trump’s latest comments, a White House aide said the Obama administration had no reaction beyond its previously stated policy positions.

In the Fox interview, Trump criticized China over its currency policies, its activities in the South China Sea and its stance toward North Korea. He said it was not up to Beijing to decide whether he should take a call from Taiwan’s leader.

“I don’t want China dictating to me and this was a call put in to me,” Trump said. “It was a very nice call. Short. And why should some other nation be able to say I can’t take a call?”

“I think it actually would’ve been very disrespectful, to be honest with you, not taking it,” Trump added.

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