President Joe Biden said the United States would be willing to intervene to defend Taiwan if China were to invade, the latest Biden comment casting doubt on the longstanding U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity” on the matter.
At a news conference in Tokyo, Biden was asked whether the United States was willing to “get involved militarily to defend Taiwan,” considering Washington was reluctant to do so following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Yes. That’s the commitment we made,” said Biden, without elaborating on what a hypothetical U.S. defense of Taiwan would entail.
It is Biden’s latest apparent move away from the approach of “strategic ambiguity” that U.S. presidents have long embraced when talking about a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
In response, China’s foreign ministry quickly hit back, saying Beijing has no room for compromise or concessions on matters related to its sovereignty.
Biden made similar remarks in October. In both instances, White House officials quickly attempted to clarify Biden’s comments.
“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,” a White House official said later Monday.
The U.S. official, though, did not walk back Biden’s comments about coming to the defense of Taiwan.
China, a single-party authoritarian state, views democratic Taiwan as a breakaway province and has long vowed to retake it, by force, if necessary. In recent years, Beijing has also flown an increasing number of warplanes near the island.
In Tokyo, Biden said China is “flirting with danger,” but that he does not expect China will use force to attempt to take Taiwan, especially if the world stands up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“My expectation is that a lot of it depends on just how strongly the world makes clear that that kind of action is going to result in long-term disapprobation,” Biden said.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who was speaking alongside Biden, offered a less direct answer on whether Japan would intervene militarily to defend Taiwan.
However, Kishida said, “unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force, like in Ukraine, should never be tolerated in the Indo-Pacific.”
Kishida said he and Biden underscored the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
Japan has been one of the world’s most outspoken critics of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Biden and Kishida repeatedly condemned the invasion in their public comments Monday.
“This is not a European issue. This has global implications. This has implications for East Asia and Indo-Pacific security matters,” Noriyuki Shikata, Japan’s Cabinet Secretary for Public Affairs, told VOA.
During their summit, Kishida also said Biden supported Japan’s recent efforts to “fundamentally reinforce Japan’s defense capability.”
Biden is in the middle of a three-day visit to Japan, following a stop in South Korea.
At an event in Tokyo on Monday, Biden unveiled the beginnings of the “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework,” or IPEF, an initiative meant to demonstrate U.S. economic engagement in Asia.
So far, 12 Asian countries have agreed to join IPEF discussions, which U.S. officials hope will eventually result in a more concrete plan to strengthen global supply chains and set rules for the digital economy.
IPEF is the long-awaited economic component of the U.S. “Indo-Pacific strategy,” which many in Asia have said has focused too much on military issues.
On Tuesday, Biden and Kishida will participate in a summit meeting of the Quad — a regional grouping made up of the United States, Japan, India, and Australia — which is widely seen as an attempt to contain China.