US President Joe Biden has indicated if Taiwan is attacked, the US will safeguard it.

Kumail Shah
Biden administration

US President Joe Biden says he is prepared to use force to defend Taiwan, in a series of scathing remarks about China delivered in Tokyo that an adviser claims signal no shift in US policy toward the self-ruled island.

Mr. Biden’s remark on Monday, delivered on his first visit to Japan since taking office and in the presence of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, appeared to deviate from the US’s current policy of so-called strategic ambiguity on Taiwan.

China believes the democratic island to be its territory, part of “one China,” and claims it is the most sensitive and crucial subject in its relations with the US.

During a joint press conference with the Japanese leader, a reporter asked Biden if the US would support Taiwan if it was invaded, and the president said, “Yes.”

“That’s the commitment we made,” he said.

“We agree with a one-China policy. We’ve signed on to it and all the intended agreements were made from there. But the idea that, that it can be taken by force, just taken by force, is just not, is just not appropriate.”

He also stated that he did not expect such an incident to occur or be undertaken.

Following Biden’s remarks, a White House spokesman stated that there had been no change in policy toward Taiwan. According to China’s foreign ministry, the United States should not back Taiwan’s independence.

As Biden answered t the question on Taiwan, the president’s national security advisors moved in their chairs and looked to be attentively watching him. Several others glanced down as he expressed what appeared to be an unequivocal pledge to Taiwan’s defense.

In October, Mr. Biden said something similar about safeguarding Taiwan.

At the time, a White House official stated that Mr. Biden was not declaring any changes in US policy, and one analyst called the remark a “gaffe.”

Despite the White House’s assurance that Monday’s remarks did not signal a shift in US policy, Grant Newsham, a retired US Marine Corps colonel and now a research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, said the message was plain.

“This statement deserves to be taken seriously,” Mr. Newsham said.

“It is a clear enough statement that the US will not sit by if China attacks Taiwan.”

While Washington is legally bound to give Taiwan wit the ability to defend itself, it has long maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would intervene militarily to safeguard Taiwan in the case of a Chinese attack.

Mr. Biden also made harsh remarks about China’s increasingly assertive stance in the area, saying he hoped Russian President Vladimir Putin would pay a price for his invasion of Ukraine, partly to show China what it would face if it invaded Taiwan.

Mr. Biden’s words are also likely to overshadow the highlight of his Japan tour, the announcement of an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a comprehensive plan that would serve as an economic cornerstone for the United States’ engagement with Asia.

In the Quad group of countries, he will meet with the leaders of Japan, India, and Australia.



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