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Trump advisers Stephen Yates visits Taiwan to meet “friends”

Whether Yates will meet with Tsai Ing-wen remains unclear

Trump advisers Stephen Yates visits Taiwan to meet “friends”

Stephen Yates, a former deputy national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney and the current chairman of the Idaho Republican Party, is visiting Taiwan this week. As he arrived early Tuesday at the Taoyuan International Airport, he was surrounded by media and asked whether any meeting is to be arranged with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

Yates has recently gained a lot of media attention for his role behind the historic Trump-Tsai call last Friday, though he has been denying the claim. In a recent 20-minute interview with VOA in Chinese, Yates said that with his extensive experience in the Greater China region, he has been approached by the team for advice and insights. According to the Wall Street Journal published Monday, a transition official said the call had been arranged by Bob Dole, the former Republican senator and presidential nominee.

Asked by the same question by reporters at the airport, Yates reiterated that he is not responsible for the congratulatory phone call between President-elect Trump and Tsai but a friend of him.

Yates explained the purpose of the trip is to meet and exchange ideas with old friends in Taiwan. Asked whether a meeting with Tsai is slated to take place during his visit in Taiwan, Yates said he has no knowledge of the full schedule and will see how it is going to be arranged.

Yates defends Trump's tweet calling Tsai "the President of Taiwan"

Known for being fluent in Chinese, upon arrival, Yates responded to questions from Taiwanese reporters mainly in Mandarin. Speaking of Beijing's reaction to the call, Yates 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.

In the tweet by Trump last Friday, he called Tsai "the President of Taiwan," which prompted backlash from China. Asked by media whether it would negatively affect U.S.-China relations, he said that Trump has been known for speaking straightforward, so there is nothing wrong with referring Taiwan's President to "President of Taiwan."

Yates continued to say in Chinese: “If American or Chinese people want to interact with Taiwanese, they should use truth as the basis.”

According to media reports, Yates was a missionary in Taiwan in the 1980s and developed a close relationship with Taiwan while working at Heritage Foundation.

A day before his departure for Taiwan, he posted on his Facebook that he was going to fly to Taiwan and that it“should be an interesting week.”

Yates is slated to meet Taiwanese media on Tuesday evening in Taipei.