President Joe Biden says US forces will defend Taiwan if China attempts to invade the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing as part of its territory, adding to official US support for democracy on the island.
Biden said “yes” when asked during an interview that aired Sunday on TBEN News’ 60 minutes program or “US troops, American men and women would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.”
Asked for comment, a White House spokesman said US policy on Taiwan had not changed. That policy says Washington wants Taiwan’s status to be resolved peacefully, but doesn’t say whether US troops can be sent in response to a Chinese attack.
“The president has said this before, including in Tokyo earlier this year. He also made it clear that our Taiwan policy has not changed. It will remain so,” said the spokesman.
Tensions are mounting after attempts by the government of Chinese President Xi Jinping to intimidate Taiwan by firing missiles into the nearby sea and flying fighter jets nearby during visits to Taipei by political figures including the chairman of the National Assembly. American House, Nancy Pelosi.
Taiwan’s State Department on Monday expressed “sincere gratitude” to Biden for “affirming the US government’s unwavering promise of security to Taiwan”.
Taiwan will “resist authoritarian expansion and aggression” and “deepen its close security partnership” with Washington and other governments “of the same mindset” to protect regional stability, the statement said.
Split after the Civil War of 1949
Washington is required by federal law to ensure Taiwan has the means to defend itself, but has not said whether US troops will be sent. The United States has no formal relations with the island, but does maintain informal diplomatic ties.
Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war that ended when the Communist Party took control of the mainland. The two governments say they are one country but dispute who has the right to be the national leader.
Beijing has officially criticized foreign contact with Taiwan’s elected government as an encouragement to make its de facto independence permanent, a move the mainland says would lead to war.
Washington says it does not support Taiwan’s formal independence, a position Biden reiterated in the interview aired Sunday.
“Taiwan itself judges their independence,” the president said. “We don’t encourage their independence.”
In May, Biden said “yes” when asked at a press conference in Tokyo whether he was willing to get militarily involved to defend Taiwan if China invaded.