Biden denies encouraging Taiwan's independence, says decision is up to Taiwan

He previously said Taiwan was "independent" when responding to media queries.

Jean Chien Tay | November 20, 2021, 09:18 AM

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U.S. President Joe Biden has walked back on his previous statement that referred to the island of Taiwan as "independent".

Taiwan will have to "make up their mind"

Mentioning his support for the Taiwan Relations Act, he initially said that Taiwan is "independent", and "makes its own decisions", when responding to questions on the progress of the Taiwan issue in his recent discussion with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

However, the 78-year-old later clarified that he was not "encouraging" Taiwan's independence, and added that the decision is up to Taiwan, not the U.S, according to CNN.

Referring to the Taiwan Relations Act, he added, "That's what we're doing. Let them make up their mind. Period.".

Strategic ambiguity

When talking about his virtual summit with Xi, Biden said that there was "limited progress" on the discussion of the Taiwan issue, according to CNN.

He added that the U.S. encouraged Taiwan to follow the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.

Under the act, the U.S. will commit to helping the island defend itself, though it does not recognise Taiwan's independence.

Throughout the years, the U.S. has employed "strategic ambiguity" when it comes to its position on Taiwan, which is supposed to act as a deterrence to both China and Taiwan to prevent them from making unilateral decisions that could escalate the situation.

According to some experts, the strategy helps to preserve peace in the region, as both sides are uncertain if the U.S. would intervene in the event of a conflict.

No "major breakthroughs" at Xi-Biden summit

The leaders of China and the U.S. held a virtual summit on Nov. 15, which lasted for over three hours, Reuters reported.

Both leaders reportedly discussed contentious topics such as the pandemic, trade and competition, climate change, and military issues.

According to CNN, Xi and Biden engaged in "healthy debate", but there were no "major breakthroughs" that arose from the meeting.

Meanwhile, Xi warned supporters of Taiwan's independence that such moves will be like "playing with fire" and will risk getting "burnt", Chinese state-run media Xinhua News Agency reported.

After the meeting, China Daily reported that both nations agreed to ease visa restrictions for journalists, and said that the deal was done before the meeting.

Call for tougher stance on Taiwan

On Nov. 17, a bipartisan advisory body in the U.S. Congress expressed the need for urgent measures to strengthen the U.S.' credibility of military deterrence of Chinese aggression against Taiwan, according to Reuters.

The report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) gave a range of recommendations about Taiwan, including funding for Taiwan's defence.

The report also pointed out that the lack of clarity in the U.S.'s policy may cause the deterrence to fail "if Chinese leaders interpret that policy to mean opportunistic aggression against Taiwan might not provoke a quick or decisive U.S. response".

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