President Joe Biden has reiterated that United States military personnel would defend Taiwan if the Chinese military launched an invasion of the democratically ruled island.
Taiwan lies fewer than 110 miles (177 kilometers) off the coast of China. For more than 70 years the two sides have been governed separately, but that hasn’t stopped China’s ruling Communist Party from claiming the island as its own despite having never controlled it.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping has said that “reunification” between China and Taiwan is inevitable and refused to rule out the use of force. Tensions between Beijing and Taipei are at the highest they’ve been in recent decades, with the Chinese military holding major military drills near the island.
Appearing on the CBS program “60 Minutes” on Sunday, September 18, Biden was asked whether “US forces, US men and women would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion,” a prospect US officials privately fear is becoming more likely.
“Yes,” Biden said.
It’s not the first time Biden has gone beyond the longstanding US approach of “strategic ambiguity” when it comes to the defense of Taiwan.
Most recently, during a visit to Tokyo in May, Biden said the US would intervene militarily if China attempts to take Taiwan by force.
The White House was quick to downplay Biden’s previous comments on Taiwan.
Under the “One China” policy, the US acknowledges China’s position that Taiwan is part of China, but has never officially recognized the Communist Party’s claim to the self-governing island of 23 million. The US provides Taiwan defensive weapons, but has remained intentionally ambiguous on whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack.
Biden repeated his commitment to the ‘one China’ policy.
“We agree with what we signed onto a long time ago. And that there’s ‘one China’ policy, and Taiwan makes their own judgments about their independence. We are not moving – we’re not encouraging their being independent … That’s their decision,” he said.
Asked if US forces would defend the island, president Biden said they would: “Yes, if in fact there was an unprecedented attack.”