The Mercury News

Biden vows to defend Taiwan

U.S. would militarily intervene if China were to invade island

- By Josh Boak, Aamer Madhani and Zeke Miller

TOKYO >> President Joe Biden said Monday the U.S. would intervene militarily if China were to invade Taiwan, declaring the commitment to protect the island is “even stronger” after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It was one of the most forceful presidenti­al statements in support of Taiwan's self-governing in decades.

Biden, at a news conference in Tokyo, said “yes” when asked if he was willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if China invaded. “That's the commitment we made,” he added.

The U.S. traditiona­lly has avoided making such an explicit security guarantee to Taiwan, with which it no longer has a mutual defense treaty, instead maintainin­g a policy of “strategic ambiguity” about how far it would be

willing to go. The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which has governed U.S. relations with the island, does not require the U.S. to step in militarily if China invades, but makes it American policy to ensure Taiwan has the resources to defend itself and to prevent any unilateral change of status by Beijing.

A White House official said Biden's comments did not reflect a policy shift for the United States, a point echoed more firmly by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, asked by reporters if Biden's answer indicated the U.S. would do more to help Taiwan than it has done to help Ukraine and whether the U.S. was making a commitment to send troops to help Taiwan in the

event of an invasion.

“As the president said our One China policy has not changed,” Austin said at the Pentagon. “He reiterated that policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also highlighte­d our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to help provide Taiwan the means to defend itself. So, again, our policy is not changed.”

But Biden's words drew a sharp response from mainland China, which has claimed Taiwan to be a rogue province.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokespers­on Wang Wenbin expressed “strong dissatisfa­ction and resolute opposition” to Biden's comments. “China has no room for compromise or concession­s on issues involving China's core interests such as sovereignt­y and territoria­l integrity.”

He added, “China will take firm action to safeguard its sovereignt­y and security interests, and we will do what we say.”

Speaking alongside Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Biden said any effort by China to use force against Taiwan would “just not be appropriat­e,” adding that it would “dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.”

China has stepped up its military provocatio­ns against democratic Taiwan in recent years, aimed at intimidati­ng it into accepting Beijing's demands to unify with the communist mainland.

“They're already flirting with danger right now by flying so close and all the maneuvers that are undertaken,” Biden said of China.

Under the “one China” policy, the U.S. recognizes Beijing as the government of China and doesn't have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. However, the U.S. maintains unofficial contacts including a de facto embassy in Taipei, the capital, and supplies military equipment for the island's defense.

Biden said it was his “expectatio­n” that China would not try to seize Taiwan by force, but he also said that “depends upon just how strong the world makes clear that that kind of action is going to result in long-term disapproba­tion by the rest of the community.”

He added that deterring China from attacking Taiwan was one reason why it's important that Russian President Vladimir Putin “pay a dear price for his barbarism in Ukraine,” lest China and other nations get the idea that such action is acceptable. Wanting no escalation with nuclear-armed Russia, Biden quickly ruled out putting U.S. forces into direct conflict with Russia. But the U.S. has shipped billions of dollars in military assistance that has helped Ukraine put up a stiffer-than-expected resistance to Russia's onslaught.

Taipei cheered Biden's remarks, with Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokespers­on Joanne Ou expressing “sincere welcome and gratitude.”

“The challenge posed by China to the security of the Taiwan Strait has drawn great concern in the internatio­nal community,” said Ou. “Taiwan will continue to improve its self-defense capabiliti­es, and deepen cooperatio­n with the United States and Japan and other like-minded countries to jointly defend the security of the Taiwan Strait and the rules-based internatio­nal order, while promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.”

It's not the first time Biden has pledged to defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack, followed by administra­tion officials contending there had been no change to American policy. In a CNN town hall in October, Biden was asked about using the U.S. military to defend Taiwan and replied, “Yes, we have a commitment to do that.”

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed Sunday that Taiwan isn't among the government­s signed up for the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which is meant to allow the U.S. to work more closely with key Asian economies on issues like supply chains, digital trade, clean energy and anticorrup­tion.

 ?? EVAN VUCCI — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo on Monday.
EVAN VUCCI — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo on Monday.

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