U.S. President Joe Biden has said he would be willing to use force to defend Taiwan, in a series of critical comments about China he made in Tokyo that, according to his aide, do not represent any change in U.S. policy toward the self-governing island .
Mr Biden’s comment on Monday, made during his first visit to Japan since taking office, and, as watched by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishido, seemed a departure from the current US policy of so-called strategic ambiguity towards Taiwan.
China considers the democratic island its territory, part of “United China”, and states that it is the most sensitive and important issue in its relations with the United States.
When a reporter asked Mr. Biden during a joint news conference with the Japanese leader whether the United States would defend Taiwan in the event of an attack on him, the president replied, “Yes.”
“This is a commitment we have made,” he said.
“We agree with the one-China policy. We signed it and all the planned agreements made from there. But the idea that it can be taken by force, just by force, just isn’t right.”
He added that he expected that such an event would not take place and no attempt would be made.
Following Mr. Biden’s comments, a White House spokesman said there had been no change in policy toward Taiwan.
China’s foreign ministry has said the United States should not defend Taiwan’s independence.
The president’s aides to national security moved to their seats and seemed to be studying Biden closely when he answered a question about Taiwan. A few looked down when he did what seemed like an unequivocal commitment to defending Taiwan.
Mr Biden made a similar comment regarding Taiwan’s defense in October. and one analyst called the comment a “blunder.”
President Joe Biden (right) meets with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the Akasaka Palace on Monday, May 23, 2022, in Tokyo. Source: AP / Evan Teach / AP
Although the White House insists Monday’s comments do not represent a change in U.S. policy, Grant Newham, a retired U.S. Marine colonel and now a researcher at the Japan Strategic Studies Forum, said the point was clear.
“This statement deserves to be taken seriously,” Mr Newham said.
“This is a clear enough statement that the United States will not sit aside if China attacks Taiwan.”
Although Washington is required by law to provide Taiwan with a means of defense, it has long pursued a policy of “strategic uncertainty” as to whether it will intervene militarily to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
Mr Biden has made other harsh comments about China’s increasingly pushy stance in the region, saying he hopes Russian President Vladimir Putin will pay the price for his invasion of Ukraine in part to show China what it will face if it invades Taiwan. .
Mr Biden’s remarks are likely to overshadow the central part of his visit to Japan, the launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Structure, a broad-based plan that provides economic support for U.S. engagement with Asia.
His trip includes meetings with the leaders of Japan, India and Australia, in the Quad group of countries.