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March 25, 2017

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Full text of President Obama's comments on China, Taiwan relations

TAIPEI -- President Barack Obama on Friday gave one of his most elaborate comments to date on U.S. relations with China and Taiwan, saying the status quo, although not completely satisfactory, "has kept the peace and allowed the Taiwanese to be a pretty successful economy and a people who have a high degree of self-determination."

The following is the full text of the question and the president's answer according to a transcript provided by the White House Office of the Press Secretary:

Q: Your successor spoke by phone with the President of Taiwan the other day and declared subsequently that he wasn't sure why the United States needed to be bound by the one China policy. He suggested it could be used as a bargaining chip perhaps to get better terms on a trade deal or more cooperation on North Korea. There's already evidence that tensions between the two sides have increased a bit, and just today, the Chinese have evidently seized an underwater drone in the South China Sea. Do you agree, as some do, that our China policy could use a fresh set of eyes? And what's the big deal about having a short phone call with the President of Taiwan? Or do you worry that these types of unorthodox approaches are setting us on a collision course with perhaps our biggest geopolitical adversary?

THE PRESIDENT: That's a great question. I'm somewhere in between. I think all of our foreign policy should be subject to fresh eyes. I think one of the — I've said this before — I am very proud of the work I've done. I think I'm a better President now than when I started. But if you're here for eight years, in the bubble, you start seeing things a certain way and you benefit from — the democracy benefits, America benefits from some new perspectives.

And I think it should be not just the prerogative but the obligation of a new President to examine everything that's been done and see what makes sense and what doesn't. That's what I did when I came in, and I'm assuming any new President is going to undertake those same exercises.

And given the importance of the relationship between the United States and China, given how much is at stake in terms of the world economy, national security, our presence in the Asia Pacific, China's increasing role in international affairs — there's probably no bilateral relationship that carries more significance and where there's also the potential if that relationship breaks down or goes into a full-conflict mode, that everybody is worse off. So I think it's fine for him to take a look at it.

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