Reuters ’embarrassed’ over Tsai interview: foreign minister

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Foreign Minister David Lee (李大維) said that international news agency Reuters issued “regrets and apologies” over its latest news coverage, which the Presidential Office said had misrepresented President Tsai Ing-wen. The international news agency published two stories in two days last week, respectively headlined “Taiwan president says phone call with Trump can take place again” and “Trump spurns Taiwan president’s suggestion of another phone call.” Tsai was quoted as saying “we don’t exclude the opportunity to call President Trump himself, but it depends on the needs of the situation and the U.S. government’s consideration of regional affairs.” In the latter piece, Reuters reported that the U.S. president said he did not want to create problems for Chinese President Xi Jinping when Beijing appears to be helping efforts to rein in North Korea. Before a legislative committee on Monday, Lee said that a representative from Reuters’ Asian bureau had said that they “feel embarrassed” over the incident, expressing regret and apologizing to a high-level official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). No official statement from Reuters was presented to the media. The minister refuted accusations that the government was “set up” by foreign media, saying that the ministry had responded to the event in accordance with protocol and that it would be “inspecting (the incident) closely” if MOFA is to be blamed for “misjudging the circumstances.” Lee added that Reuters’ Asian bureau also said that it was not aware that its Washington bureau had an interview with Trump the day after its with Tsai. He said that the “Trump spurns Tsai” headline was merely the news agency trying to stimulate click-through rate by creating a sensational headline. Incident’s Seriousness Exaggerated: Lee Presidential Office Spokesman Alex Huang (黃重諺) said last week that Tsai was “passively responding” to the question which was not on the presubmitted question list. Tsai’s answer simply underlined the importance of close communications between the two countries, Huang said, adding that the report was inaccurate and had created further confusion. Lee stated on Monday that the incident “isn’t that serious,” saying that Taiwan’s relationship with the U.S. is still positive. Tsai’s first phone call with Trump happened on Dec. 2 last year, less than a month after his victory in the presidential election, offering her congratulations. It was the first direct contact between the two countries’ leaders since 1979 when official diplomatic ties were severed. The incident created skepticism as to whether Trump accepts the “One China” policy which has been the basis of the relationship between the three countries for decades.