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Biden Says U.S. Military Would Defend Taiwan from China

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President Joe Biden | Image by Trevor Bexon

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President Joe Biden affirmed the United States’ support for Taiwan on Monday, stating that his government is prepared to protect Taiwan with force if China attacks.

The president made the statement during a news conference in Tokyo on May 23 with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

A reporter asked Biden whether he would be “willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”

“Yes,” Biden responded firmly. “It’s the commitment we made. Look, here’s the situation. We agree with a ‘One China’ policy; we’ve signed onto it, and all the intended agreements made from there. But the idea that [Taiwan] can be taken by force … is just not appropriate. It will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine. And so it’s a burden that is even stronger.”

The Japanese prime minister concurred with Biden, saying that “any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force—like Russia’s aggression against Ukraine—should never be tolerated in the Indo-Pacific, above all in east Asia.”

“Based on this shared awareness, I have stated my determination to fundamentally reinforce Japan’s defense capability and secure substantial increase of its defense budget, and President Biden has strongly supported this,” Kishida added.

President Biden continued criticizing China, which insists that Taiwan is a part of its territory and cannot exist as a sovereign nation, for “flirting with danger” by flying its fighter jets near Taiwan’s airspace and performing other provocative actions in the Taiwan Strait.

Biden added that he does not think China will invade Taiwan.

“My expectation is it will not happen; it will not be attempted,” he said. “A lot of it depends on just how strongly the world makes it clear that that kind of action is going to result in long-term disapprobation by the rest of the community.”

Soon after, Taiwan’s foreign ministry thanked the president for his comments.

China’s foreign ministry, on the other hand, expressed “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition” to Biden’s remarks.

“No one should underestimate the strong determination, firm will, and strong ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and do not stand against the 1.4 billion Chinese people,” China’s foreign ministry said.

In a statement issued to reporters, the White House tried to clarify what the president meant versus what he appeared to say.

“As the president said, our policy has not changed,” the White House said. “He reiterated our One China Policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself.”

The United States and other world governments’ One China policy differs from China’s. Beijing’s One China policy claims Taiwan as its territory to govern. The U.S. policy recognizes China’s position but does not acknowledge Taiwan as part of China’s governing territory.

Ned Price, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, highlighted the differences between the different One China policies in a May 21 tweet.

“The PRC (People’s Republic of China) continues to publicly misrepresent U.S. policy. The United States does not subscribe to the PRC’s ‘one China principle’—we remain committed to our longstanding, bipartisan one China policy guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, Three Joint Communiques, and Six Assurances,” wrote Price.

Biden was in Tokyo to meet with world leaders to launch the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), a new Asia-Pacific network led by the U.S. that features 13 countries, including India and Japan, but not Taiwan. IPEF’s mission is to unite the nations of the Asia-Pacific region against China’s growing assertiveness.    

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