Biden says U.S. forces would defend Taiwan in the event of ‘an unprecedented attack’ from China

The interview was just the latest time that U.S. President Joe Biden has appeared to go beyond long-standing stated U.S. policy on Taiwan

September 19, 2022 07:25 am | Updated 06:54 pm IST - WASHINGTON:

U.S. President Joe Biden. File.

U.S. President Joe Biden. File. | Photo Credit: AP

U.S. President Joe Biden said U.S forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, his most explicit statement so far on the issue.

Asked in a CBS 60 Minutes interview broadcast on September 18 whether U.S. forces would defend the self-ruled island claimed by China, he replied: "Yes, if in fact, there was an unprecedented attack."

Asked to clarify if he meant that unlike in Ukraine, U.S. forces—American men and women—would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, Mr. Biden replied: "Yes."

The interview was just the latest time that Mr. Biden has appeared to go beyond long-standing stated U.S. policy on Taiwan, but his statement was clearer than previous ones about committing U.S. troops to the defend the island.

The United States has long stuck to a policy of "strategic ambiguity" and not making clear whether it would respond militarily to an attack on Taiwan.

Asked to comment, a White House spokesperson said U.S. policy towards Taiwan had not changed.

"The President has said this before, including in Tokyo earlier this year. He also made clear then that our Taiwan policy hasn’t changed. That remains true," the spokesperson said.

The CBS interview with Mr. Biden was conducted last week. The President is in Britain for Queen Elizabeth's funeral on Monday.

In May, Mr. Biden was asked if he was willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan and replied: "Yes ... That's the commitment we made."

In the 60 Minutes interview, Mr. Biden reiterated the United States did not support Taiwanese independence and remained committed to a "One-China" policy in which Washington officially recognizes Beijing not Taipei.

Mr. Biden's remarks are sure to enrage Beijing, which was greatly angered by a visit to Taiwan by U.S. House speaker Nancy Pelosi in August.

That visit promoted China to conducted its largest-ever military exercises around Taiwan and China has protested moves by U.S. lawmakers to advanced legislation that would enhance U.S. military support for Taiwan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to bring democratically-governed Taiwan under Beijing's control and has not ruled out the use of force.

There was no immediate response to a request for comment from China's embassy in Washington.

In a phone call with Mr. Biden in July, Mr. Xi warned against playing with fire over Taiwan, saying "those who play with fire will perish by it."

Asked last October if the United States would come to the defense of Taiwan, which the United States is required by law to provide with the means to defend itself, Mr. Biden said: "Yes, we have a commitment to do that."

At that time, a White House spokesperson said Mr. Biden was not announcing any change in U.S. policy and some experts referred to the comment as a "gaffe".

Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said if Mr. Biden made such pledges he needed to ensure he could back them up.

"If President Biden plans to defend Taiwan, then he should make sure the U.S. military has the capability to do so," she said. "Rhetorical support that isn't backed up by real capabilities is unlikely to strengthen deterrence."

Mr. Biden's Asia policy czar, Kurt Campbell, has in the past rejected any move to "strategic clarity" over Taiwan, saying there were "significant downsides" to such an approach.

Top News Today

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.