President Joe Biden said Sunday that US forces would defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion, while the White House said Washington’s policy was unchanged.
Asked by the CBS “60 Minutes” program whether US troops would defend Taiwan, Biden said “yes,” if it were “an unprecedented attack.”
This was not the first time that Biden has declared US forces would take part in a war between China and Taiwan, with the White House appearing to walk back his comments afterward. The previous time was in May during a visit to Japan.
Washington cut formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979, switching recognition to Beijing as the sole representative of China, with the mainland becoming a major trading partner.
But at the same time, the United States maintained a decisive, if at times delicate, role in supporting Taiwan.
Under a law passed by Congress, the United States is required to sell Taiwan military supplies to ensure its self-defense against Beijing’s vastly larger armed forces.
But it has maintained what is officially called “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would actually intervene militarily.
The policy is designed both to ward off a Chinese invasion and discourage Taiwan from ever provoking Beijing by formally declaring independence.
Asked if the latest statement from Biden signaled a change in that strategic ambiguity, a White House spokesman said: “The president has said this before, including in Tokyo earlier this year. He also made clear then that our Taiwan policy hasn’t changed. That remains true.”