President Joe Biden for the first time has openly pledged American military involvement in defence of Taiwan should China’s increasingly aggressive incursions into the island nation’s airspace spark a hot war.
“Yes, we have a commitment to do that,” Biden said at a CNN town hall on Thursday when asked if the United States would come to the defence of Taiwan, which is facing mounting military and political pressure from Beijing to accept Chinese sovereignty.
While Washington is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, it has long followed a policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’ over whether it would intervene militarily to protect the island.
President Biden’s response has now transformed the former diplomatic fudging into a solid pledge, further elevating America’s own friction with the Beijing regime.
No longer the status quo
In August, a Biden administration official said US policy on Taiwan had not changed after the President appeared to suggest the United States would defend the island if it were attacked.
“The US defence relationship with Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act. We will uphold our commitment under the Act, we will continue to support Taiwan’s self-defence, and we will continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo,” a White House official said.
Biden said people should not worry about Washington’s military strength because “China, Russia and the rest of the world knows we’re the most powerful military in the history of the world.
“What you do have to worry about is whether or not they’re going to engage in activities that would put them in a position where they may make a serious mistake,” Biden said.
“I don’t want a cold war with China. I just want China to understand that we’re not going to step back, that we’re not going to change any of our views.”
China’s foreign ministry on Friday urged the US to avoid sending the wrong signals to proponents of Taiwanese independence.
China has no room for concessions when it comes to its core interests, ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
Military tensions between Taiwan and China are at their worst in more than 40 years, Taiwan’s defence minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said this month, adding China would be capable of mounting a “full-scale” invasion by 2025.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory, which should be taken by force if necessary. Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its freedoms and democracy.
Speaking to reporters earlier on Thursday, China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun said Beijing is pursuing “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan and responding to “separatist attempts” by its ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
“We are not the troublemaker. On the contrary, some countries – the US in particular – is taking dangerous actions, leading the situation in Taiwan Strait in a dangerous direction,” he said.
“At this moment what we should call is that the United States to stop such practice. Dragging Taiwan into a war definitely is in nobody’s interest. I don’t see that the United States will gain anything from that.”