Joe Biden has said that the US would step in to defend Taiwan in the face of a Chinese attack, saying the burden to protect the island is “even stronger” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The President’s statement was unusually forceful, and breaks with recent policy of taking a more conciliatory tone following the more strongly-worded messages of the Trump administration. The comments drew a defensive response from Beijing.
Biden said “yes” when asked at a news conference in Tokyo if he was willing to use military force to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion. “That’s the commitment we made,” he added.
In accordance with Beijing’s “one-China policy” the US acknowledges Beijing’s position that there is only one Chinese government. The US has traditionally avoided making such explicit security guarantees to protect the island, instead preferring to maintain an ambiguous stance. The US has no mutual defense treaty with Taiwan and there are formal diplomatic relations between the two administrations.
The president was speaking at the conference with Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida, against the backdrop of increased Chinese military activity in the region, something which was of major concern to western nations even prior to Vladimir Putin’s military offensive.
Biden praised Tokyo’s plans to increase defense spending in light of growing security concerns, and said that Washington backed Japan’s permanent membership of a reformed UN security council.
President Biden did say that he thought a Chinese invasion of Taiwan to be unlikely. “My expectation is that will not happen,” he said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the matter was “a purely internal affair for China”.
“On issues touching on China’s core interests of sovereignty and territorial integrity, China has no room for compromise or concession,” he added.
A White House official said the president’s comments did not reflect an official change in policy.