Biden Says U.S. Will Defend Taiwan Militarily From China
TOKYO — President Joe Biden said Monday that the U.S. would intervene militarily if China were to invade Taiwan, saying the burden to protect Taiwan is “even stronger” after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This statement was among the most powerful presidential support for Taiwan statements in years.
Biden, at a news conference in Tokyo, said “yes” when asked if he was willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if China invaded. “That’s the commitment we made,” he added.
The U.S. traditionally has avoided making such an explicit security guarantee to Taiwan, with which it no longer has a mutual defense treaty, instead maintaining a policy of “strategic ambiguity” about how far it would be willing to go if China invaded. U.S. relations have been governed by the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. It does not mandate that the U.S. military aid Taiwan in case of invasion from China. Instead, the U.S. policy is to make sure Taiwan has all the necessary resources and stop Beijing unilaterally altering its status.
Biden’s comments drew a sharp response from the China, which has claimed Taiwan to be a rogue province.
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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin expressed “strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition” to Biden’s comments. “China has no room for compromise or concessions on issues involving China’s core interests such as sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
He added, “China will take firm action to safeguard its sovereignty and security interests, and we will do what we say.”
A White House official said Biden’s comments did not reflect a policy shift.
Speaking alongside Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Biden said any effort by China to use force against Taiwan would “just not be appropriate,” adding that it “will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.”
China has stepped up its military provocations against democratic Taiwan in recent years aimed at intimidating it into accepting Beijing’s demands to unify with the communist-ruled mainland.
“They’re already flirting with danger right now by flying so close and all the maneuvers that are undertaken,” Biden said of China.
Under the “one China” policy, the U.S. recognizes Beijing as the government of China and doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. However, the U.S. maintains unofficial contacts including a de facto embassy in Taipei, the capital, and supplies military equipment for the island’s defense.
Putin’s example for China
Biden said it is his “expectation” that China would not try to seize Taiwan by force, but he said that assessment “depends upon just how strong the world makes clear that that kind of action is going to result in long-term disapprobation by the rest of the community.”
He added that deterring China from attacking Taiwan was one reason why it’s important that Russian President Vladimir Putin “pay a dear price for his barbarism in Ukraine,” lest China and other nations get the idea that such action is acceptable.
Fearing escalation with nuclear-armed Russia, Biden quickly ruled out putting U.S. forces into direct conflict with Russia, but he has shipped billions of dollars in U.S. military assistance that has helped Ukraine put up a stiffer-than-expected resistance to Russia’s onslaught.
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Taipei cheered Biden’s remarks, with Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Joanne Ou expressing “sincere welcome and gratitude” for the comments.
“The challenge posed by China to the security of the Taiwan Strait has drawn great concern in the international community,” said Ou. “Taiwan will continue to improve its self-defense capabilities, and deepen cooperation with the United States and Japan and other like-minded countries to jointly defend the security of the Taiwan Strait and the rules-based international order, while promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.”
After a Beijing commemoration on November 11, 2016, soldiers from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army stand in line.
Wang Zhao—AFP/Getty Images
It’s not the first time Biden has pledged to defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack, only for administration officials to later claim there had been no change to American policy. In a CNN town hall in October, Biden was asked about using the U.S. military to defend Taiwan and replied, “Yes, we have a commitment to do that.”
Biden’s comments came just before he formally launched a long-anticipated Indo-Pacific trade pact that excludes Taiwan.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed Sunday that Taiwan isn’t among the governments signed up for the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which is meant to allow the U.S. to work more closely with key Asian economies on issues like supply chains, digital trade, clean energy and corruption.
China would be furious if Taiwan was included.
Sullivan indicated that the U.S. is interested in deepening its economic partnership and cooperation with Taiwan.
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