U.S. President Joe Biden said Monday that the U.S. would intervene militarily to defend Taiwan if the island was invaded by China.
Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during his first trip to Asia since taking office, Biden again voiced concern over China’s growing assertiveness across the region.
Biden suggested that the U.S. would go further on behalf of Taiwan than what it has done for Ukraine, where Washington has provided military help and intelligence assistance but no American troops following the Russian invasion in February.
When asked by a reporter if the U.S. would defend Taiwan if it were attacked by China, Biden responded: “Yes … That’s the commitment we made.”
“We agree with a One China policy,” Biden said. “We’ve signed on to it and all the intended agreements made from there. But the idea that, that it can be taken by force, just taken by force, is just not, is just not appropriate.”
Biden did play down the possibility that China would try to seize Taiwan, saying that he didn’t expect it to happen.
Shortly after the press conference, the White House attempted to tone down Biden’s remarks. In a statement sent to reporters, an official said: “As the president said, our policy has not changed.”
“He reiterated our One China Policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself,” the statement read.
The One China policy is the diplomatic acknowledgement of China’s position that there is only one Chinese government. In this framework, the U.S. acknowledges, but doesn’t endorse, Beijing’s claims that Taiwan is part of China. Though the U.S. doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, it has a “robust unofficial relationship” with the island.
Under the Taiwan Relations Act, Washington promises to provide the island with the means to defend itself. But so far, it has stopped short of pledging to send troops or directly intervene.