President Biden declared Sunday that U.S. forces would defend Taiwan if China launches “an unprecedented attack,” underscoring the U.S. commitment to protect the island as China ratchets up threats.
In a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday evening, Mr. Biden was asked whether U.S. forces would defend Taiwan if there was a Chinese incursion.
“Yes, if in fact, there was an unprecedented attack,” Mr. Biden said.
“So unlike Ukraine, to be clear, sir, U.S. forces, U.S. men and women would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion?” asked interviewer Scott Pelley.
“Yes,” Mr. Biden responded.
Later, Mr. Pelley asked the president what Chinese President Xi Jinping should know about the U.S. commitment to Taiwan.
“We agree with what we signed onto a long time ago,” Mr. Biden said. “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. We’re not — that — that’s their decision.”
Officially, the U.S. policy is that there is one China, that Taiwan is a part of China, and that the government sitting in Beijing is China’s legitimate government, even as Washington maintains informal relations and substantial defense ties with the democratic government in Taiwan.
Shortly after the interview aired, a White House official said the U.S. policy on China has not changed.
The U.S. maintains “strategic ambiguity” on whether American forces would defend Taiwan and, despite the “One China” policy, nevertheless opposes efforts to change the status quo by force.
The Taiwan Relations Act obligates the U.S. to help provide Taiwan with equipment to defend itself but is not a formal defense treaty like NATO.
Mr. Biden’s comments echo remarks he made in May that sparked sharp criticism from China and the White House walked back those comments then too.
During a joint news conference in May with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, was asked whether the U.S. would defend Taiwan if attacked, and Mr. Biden replied, “Yes.”
“That’s the commitment we made,” Mr. Biden said.
At the time, China’s Foreign Ministry expressed “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition” to Mr. Biden’s remarks, adding that Beijing had no room for compromise or concessions relating to sovereignty and territorial integrity.