TOKYO (AFP) – President Joe Biden said Monday that the United States would intervene militarily if China invaded Taiwan, declaring the commitment to protecting the island “stronger” after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.. It was one of the strongest presidential statements in favor of Taiwan’s autonomy in decades.
Biden, at a press conference in Tokyo, said “yes” when asked if he would be willing to intervene militarily to defend Taiwan if China invaded. “This is the commitment we made,” he added.
The United States has traditionally avoided offering such an explicit security guarantee to Taiwan, with which it no longer has a mutual defense treaty, and instead has maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity” about how far it might be willing to go. The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which governs US relations with the islandIt does not require the United States to intervene militarily in the event of an invasion by China, but it does make it a U.S. policy to ensure that Taiwan has the resources to defend itself and prevent any unilateral change of situation on the part of Beijing.
A White House official said Biden’s comments did not reflect a shift in U.S. policy, a point echoed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, when reporters asked him if Biden’s answer suggested the United States would do more to help Taiwan than it did to help. Ukraine and whether the United States pledges troops to assist Taiwan in the event of an invasion.
“As the president said, the one-China policy has not changed,” Austin said at the Pentagon. He reiterated this policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits. He also affirmed our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to help provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself. So, again, our policy has not changed.”
But Biden’s words were met with a sharp reaction from mainland China, which claims Taiwan to be a rogue county.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin expressed “strong dissatisfaction and firm 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.”
“China will take resolute measures to protect its sovereignty and security interests, and we will do as we say,” he added.
Speaking alongside Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Biden said any effort by China to use force against Taiwan “would be inappropriate,” adding that it “would lead to turmoil in the entire region and would be another measure similar to what happened in Ukraine.”
China escalated its military provocations against democratic Taiwan in recent years, with the aim of intimidating it into accepting Beijing’s demands for unification with the communist mainland.
“They’re really flirting with the danger right now by flying close to them and all the maneuvers that are going on,” Biden said of China.
Under the “one China” policy, the United States recognizes Beijing as the government of China and has no diplomatic relations with Taiwan. However, the United States maintains unofficial contacts including a de facto embassy in Taipei, the capital, and provides military equipment to defend the island.
Biden said it was his “expectation” that China would not attempt to seize Taiwan by force, but also said, “It depends on how strong the world makes it clear that this kind of action will lead to long-term indignation by the rest of society.”
He added that deterring China from attacking Taiwan was one of the reasons why it was important for Russian President Vladimir Putin to pay a heavy price for his barbarism in Ukraine, lest China and other countries understand the idea that such a measure is acceptable.
Wanting no escalation with a nuclear-armed Russia, Biden quickly ruled out putting US forces in direct conflict with Russia. But the United States shipped billions of dollars in military aid that helped Ukraine resist a stronger-than-expected Russian attack.
Taipei welcomed Biden’s comments, with State Department spokeswoman Joanne O expressing her “sincere welcome and gratitude.”
“The challenge posed by China to the security of the Taiwan Strait has aroused great concern in the international community,” said Oe. “Taiwan will continue to improve its self-defense capabilities, deepen cooperation with the United States, 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.”
This isn’t the first time Biden has pledged to defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack, followed by administration officials who asserted that there has been no change in US policy. At CNN’s city council in October, Biden was asked about using the US military to defend Taiwan and replied, “Yes, we have an obligation to do so.”
Taiwan is not the only foreign policy issue on which the White House has clarified or retracted Biden’s comments. When he declared in March that Putin was a war criminalJen Psaki, then press secretary, said the president was “talking from the bottom of his heart” despite no legal conclusion on the issue.
During a speech in Poland in March, Biden said of Putin: “This man cannot remain in power.” White House officials raced to say that Biden was not advocating regime change in Russia.
Biden’s latest comments on Taiwan came before he formally launched a long-awaited Indo-Pacific trade agreement excludes Taiwan.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan emphasized Sunday that Taiwan is not among the governments registered in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which aims to allow the United States to work closely with major Asian economies on issues such as supply chains and digital trade. Clean energy and anti-corruption.
The inclusion of Taiwan would have angered China.
Sullivan said the United States wants to deepen its economic partnership with Taiwan on a one-to-one basis.
Miller reported from Washington. Writer Darlene Superville for the Associated Press in Washington contributed to this report.
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