President Biden said the United States would intervene militarily if China attempted to invade Taiwan, a remark that appeared to deviate from the deliberate ambiguity traditionally held by Washington and thrice again sow confusion over U.S. policy in the region.
During a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo Monday, Biden was asked if the U.S. would be willing to go further than it did with Ukraine in helping Taiwan by getting “involved militarily to defend” the island in the event of an invasion from China.
“You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?” a reporter asked Biden
“Yes,” Biden replied firmly.
“You are?” the reporter pressed.
“That’s the commitment we made,” Biden added. “We agree with the One China policy. We signed on to it, and all the attendant agreements made from there, but the idea that it can be taken by force, just taken by force, is (just not) appropriate.”
The White House almost immediately attempted to clean up Biden’s declaration remark with an administration official stating that the U.S.’ official position remained unchanged.
“As the President said, our policy has not changed. He reiterated our One China policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself,” the official said.
When it comes to Taiwan, the U.S. policy has long been “strategic ambiguity” and has traditionally avoided making such explicit security and military guarantee to Taiwan. The U.S. is required by law under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act to provide the democratically governed Taiwan with defensive weapons but does not require or guarantee that the U.S. would step in militarily to defend Taiwan if China invades. The “One China policy” refers to the U.S. acknowledging, but not endorsing, Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is part of China and doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
Within moments of the president’s remark, China hit back at Biden over his Taiwan defense comments, noting it expressed “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition,” and warned the U.S. that it would not allow any external force to interfere in its “internal affairs.”
“We urged the US side to earnestly follow the One China principle…be cautious in words and deeds on the Taiwan issue, and not send any wrong signal to pro-Taiwan independence and separatist forces — so it won’t cause serious damage to the situation across the Taiwan Strait and China-US relations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said. “No one should underestimate the strong determination, firm will, and strong ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory, and the Taiwan issue is purely China’s internal affairs, which brooks no interference from any external forces,” Wang added, noting: “On issues concerning China’s core interests, such as sovereignty and territorial integrity, China has no room for compromise.”
Meanwhile, Taiwan welcomed Biden’s comments in a statement expressing “gratitude” to the president and the U.S. government for “reaffirming their rock-solid commitment to Taiwan.”
It is the third time Biden has made this particular gaffe regarding where the U.S. policy towards Taiwan in the past nine months. Last August, Biden said the United States had a similar commitment to Taiwan as it does to NATO allies — in which America would send troops if an ally is attacked. Biden was more explicit two months later in October, vowing to come to Taiwan’s defense if China does attack the island.
Biden’s comments came just before he formally launched a long-anticipated Indo-Pacific trade pact that excludes Taiwan to allow the U.S. to work more closely with key Asian economies on issues like supply chains, digital trade, clean energy, and anti-corruption. Including Taiwan would have angered China.ChinaJapanOne China PolicyPresident BidenPrime Minister Fumio KishidaTaiwanWhite HouseWhite House News