US willing to respond 'militarily' to defend Taiwan: Biden

The U.S. President was responding to a reporter's question.

Nigel Chua | May 23, 2022, 06:42 PM

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U.S. President Joe Biden said on May 23 that the U.S. would defend Taiwan if China attempted to claim the self-ruled island by force.

Biden was responding to a question from a reporter, posed to him at a press conference held after his meeting with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan, reported Nikkei Asia.

China does not have "jurisdiction" to take over Taiwan by force: Biden

Biden's comments on the topic came after a reporter raised the prospect of a possible invasion of Taiwan, and asked how both Japan and the U.S. would respond.

Reporter: "Mr Prime Minister [Kishida], can you tell us how Japan would respond if China were to invade or try to take over Taiwan? And how do you hope that the U.S. would respond, if that were to happen?

And, Mr President [Biden], if you could tell us how the U.S. is prepared to respond, we would appreciate it."


Biden: "Our policy towards Taiwan has not changed at all. We remain committed to supporting the peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits, and ensuring that there's no unilateral change to the status quo."

Speaking about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Biden emphasised the need to sustain sanctions imposed on the invading country and the wider implications of not following through and making the aggressor pay a "dear price".

"And what signal does that send to China? About the cost of attempting to take Taiwan by force?" he asked.

"But the United States is committed, we've made a commitment. We support the One China policy... but that does not mean that China has the jurisdiction to go in and use force to take over Taiwan.

So we stand firmly with Japan, and with other nations, not to let that happen."

The One China policy is a longstanding diplomatic understanding that Washington recognises the People's Republic of China as the "sole legal government of China", even though it does not agree with Beijing's claim of sovereignty over Taiwan.

"Not appropriate" if China takes Taiwan by force: Biden

The reporter then highlighted how the U.S. did not get involved in the Ukraine war and asked Biden if the U.S. would act differently, to defend Taiwan:

Reporter: "You didn't want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?"

Biden: "Yes."

Reporter: "You are?"

Biden: "That's the commitment we made... Look, here's the situation: We agree with the One China policy. We've signed on to it and all the attendant agreements made from there.

But the idea that [Taiwan] can be taken by force, just taken by force, is just not appropriate. It will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine and so it's a burden that is even stronger."

You can watch the full exchange by South China Morning Post (SCMP) from the 56:35 mark here.

One of the stated topics the two leaders discussed at their May 23 meeting was "security challenges", including "China’s increasingly coercive behaviour that runs counter to international law", and they also released a joint statement highlighting examples of such behaviour.

Biden's similar comments in October 2021

Biden's comments come on the heels of his previous statement on the same topic, made in October 2021.

Then, Biden said the U.S. has "a commitment" to defend Taiwan from China.

This statement was followed up by a clarification from a White House official who said there was no change in U.S. policy with regard to Taiwan.

U.S. policy of "strategic ambiguity"

The U.S. has historically employed "strategic ambiguity" when it comes to its position on Taiwan.

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, and are thus deterred from making unilateral decisions that could escalate the situation.

Following the press conference with Kishida, Washington Post journalist Michelle Ye tweeted that according to the White House, the U.S's policy of strategic ambiguity has not changed.

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Top image via Joe Biden on Facebook