Pence says Trump's conversation with President of Taiwan was a "courtesy call"

China's Foreign Ministry has lodged a formal protest after the phone call

Pence says Trump's conversation with President of Taiwan was a "courtesy call"

Picture by Gerald Herbert AP/Press Association Images

US Vice President-elect Mike Pence says Donald Trump's phone conversation with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen was simply a "courtesy call".

It prompted a diplomatic protest from China, which sees Taiwan as a breakaway province.

Speaking during an interview with NBC's Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, Mr Pence said: "I think the conversation that happened this week with the President of Taiwan was a courtesy call. She reached out to the President-elect, and he took the call from the democratically elected leader of Taiwan. It's one of more than 50 telephone calls the President-elect has taken from and made to world leaders."

Mr Pence suggested the controversy over the issue was a bit of a "tempest in a teapot", and that "I think it's the kind of approach you are going to see [Trump] bring to challenges at home and abroad".

"I think most Americans and frankly most leaders around the world know this for what it was. And it's all part and parcel. I think you're going to see in a President Donald Trump a willingness to engage the world but engage the world on America's terms," he added.

Trump's senior adviser Kellyanne Conway, meanwhile, told Fox News Sunday that people are reading too much into the call.

"It was just a phone call," she argued. "It signals the fact that he accepted a congratulatory call.

"I know that China has a perspective on it, I know the White House and State Department probably have perspective on it, and certainly Taiwan has a perspective on it. But the President-elect's perspective is that he accepted a congratulatory call," she added.

Yesterday it was reported that China's Foreign Ministry lodged a formal protest after the phone call.

Washington cut diplomatic ties with the island nation as part of Jimmy Carter’s “one-China” policy in 1979, and no American president or president-elect has spoken directly to a Taiwanese leader in the years since.

China dismissed the call as a "petty action" by the self-ruled island it claims as its own.

A spokesman for Ms Tsai said: "Of course both sides agreed ahead of time before making contact."

The President-elect himself took to Twitter to dismiss the concerns, insisting that he was called by President Tsai Ing-wen: