President Joe Biden said Monday that the US would intervene militarily if China were to invade Taiwan, adding that the burden to protect Taiwan is "even stronger' following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Biden’s comments were among the most forceful US presidential statements in support of self-governing in recent decades.
Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo, Biden said “yes” when asked if he was willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if China invaded. “That’s the commitment we made,” he added.
The US has traditionally avoided making such explicit security guarantees to Taiwan, with which it no longer has a mutual defence treaty.
The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which has governed US relations with the island, does not require the US to step in militarily to defend Taiwan if China invades. However, it does make it American policy to ensure Taiwan has the resources to defend itself and to prevent any unilateral change of status in Taiwan by Beijing.
Biden's comments are likely to draw a sharp response from China, which has long claimed Taiwan to be a rogue province.
Speaking alongside Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Biden said any effort by China to use force against Taiwan would “just not be appropriate,” adding that it “will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.”
A White House official said Biden’s comments did not reflect a policy shift.
Under the “one China” policy, the US recognises Beijing as the government of China and doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. However, the US maintains a de facto embassy in Taipei, the capital, and supplies military equipment for the island’s defence.
Biden said it is his “expectation” that China would not try to seize Taiwan by force, but he said that assessment “depends upon just how strong the world makes clear that that kind of action is going to result in long-term disapprobation by the rest of the community.”
He added that deterring China from attacking Taiwan was one reason why it's important that Russian President Vladimir Putin pays "a dear price for his barbarism in Ukraine," lest China and other nations get the idea that such action is acceptable.