President Biden said on Sunday that US forces would defend Taiwan if China launched an “unprecedented attack”, underscoring US commitment to defend the island as China escalates threats.
In an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday night, Mr. Biden was asked whether American forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.
“Yes, when in fact there was an unprecedented attack,” said Mr. – said Biden.
“So unlike Ukraine, just to be clear sir, American forces, American men and women will defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion?” asked interviewer Scott Pelley.
“Yes,” Mr. Biden replied.
Mr Pelley later asked the president what Chinese President Xi Jinping should know about the US commitment to Taiwan.
“We agree with what we signed a long time ago,” Mr. Biden said. “And that there is a ‘One China’ policy and Taiwan is making its own decisions about its independence. We do not move – we do not encourage them to be independent. We’re not – it’s – it’s their decision.”
Official US policy is that there is one China, that Taiwan is part of China, and that the government in Beijing is the legitimate government of China.
Shortly after the interview aired, a White House spokesman said that US policy toward China had not changed.
The US maintains “strategic ambiguity” over whether US troops will defend Taiwan and, despite its “One China” policy, nevertheless opposes efforts to change the status quo by force.
The Taiwan Relations Act obligates the US to help provide Taiwan with defense equipment, but is not a formal defense treaty like NATO.
Mr. Biden’s comments echo remarks he made in May that drew sharp criticism from China, and the White House also dismissed those comments.
Asked at a joint news conference in May with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida whether the US would defend Taiwan if attacked, Mr Biden said: “Yes.”
“That’s a commitment we’ve made,” Mr. Biden said.
At the time, China’s Foreign Ministry expressed “strong displeasure and strong opposition” to Mr Biden’s remarks, adding that Beijing had no room for compromise or concessions on sovereignty and territorial integrity.