Obama advises Trump to deal cautiously with Taiwan issue

The Taiwanese won't charge forward and declare independence, Obama said. 

United States President Barack Obama on Friday surprisingly touched on the thorny Taiwan issue, which is widely believed to be associated with Donald Trump's 10-minute call with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen earlier on. The island's government later thanked the Obama Administration for recognizing Taiwan's efforts in maintaining the status quo, but gave no comment on Washington's foreign policy.

In a final year-end press conference on Friday, Obama said it was fine for President-elect Donald Trump to review Washington's one-China policy toward Taiwan but cautioned that a shift would lead to significant consequences in the U.S.-Beijing relationship.

Obama noted that the parties involved have reached a consensus of maintaining the status quo and China has recognized that Taiwan is an entity. On the other hand, Taiwan has been honoring the consensus of keeping the status quo which allows it "to be a pretty successful economy and a people who have a high degree of self-determining," although the consensus is not completely satisfactory to all stakeholders.

"The Taiwanese have agreed that as long as they're able to continue to function with some degree of autonomy, that they won't charge forward and declare independence," Obama said. 

Obama continued to say that Trump has to contemplate and to prepare for significant consequences if he wants to challenge the existing one-China policy.  

Taiwan's Presidential Office reacted to Obama's statement on Saturday by thanking the U.S. leader for his long support in providing the country defensive weapons in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act over the past eight years, in promoting bilateral economic and trade ties between the two, and in backing Taiwan's participation in international affairs.

Presidential Office spokesperson Alex Huang also thanked Washington for never seeing Taiwan as a subordinate to any other, and added it was looking forward to strengthening the relationship with the Trump Administration based on the existing robust bilateral relationship.

As for Obama's comment that with a certain degree of autonomy Taiwan won't declare independence, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment; the Mainland Affairs Council firmly said that the Republic of China (Taiwan) is a "sovereign state," whose government's commitment to maintaining peace across the Taiwan Strait and the region will never change.