President Biden recently signaled that he would use military force to defend Taiwan should it ever be attacked by China.
In doing so, he abandoned the “strategic ambiguity” favored by American presidents. Biden’s statement drew a firm line during rising tensions in the region.
During a news conference during his visit to Japan, the president suggested he would be willing to support Taiwan further than he has when helping Ukraine, where he has provided intelligence assistance and tens of billions of dollars in weapons.
The aide is to help Ukraine defeat the Russians. However, Biden has so far refused to send American troops.
“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?” asked a reporter.
“Yes,” responded Biden.
“You are?” followed up the reporter.
“That’s the commitment we made,” responded the president.
The president’s statement set the stage for ramping tensions between China and the United States.
China insists Taiwan cannot exist as a sovereign nation and is part of its territory. Historically, the U.S. has remained vague about how far it would go to aid Taiwan if China used force against them.
White House backpedals
The Biden White House quickly tried to backpedal President Biden’s remarks. “As the president said, our policy has not changed. He reiterated our One China Policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
“He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself,” said a statement issued from the White House.
According to Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, “I think the president was clear on the fact that the policy has not changed.”
However, President Biden’s comments went beyond simple support of Taiwan.
He repeated that he was committed to going further with support than has been given to Ukraine.
“The idea that it can be taken by force, just taken by force, is just not appropriate,” said Biden. “It would dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine. And so it’s a burden that is even stronger.”
Biden and his administration have elaborated on when it would specifically be entailed by “militarily involved.”
When asked for details, the president didn’t respond to questions at a later event. However, he left the impression that American forces could be deployed to Taiwan.
According to Danny Russel, former advisor to President Barack Obama and vice president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, “President Biden seems to have staked out a new position somewhere between ‘strategic clarity’ and ‘strategic ambiguity.’
“He’s clear about the belief that the U.S. should respond in the event of Chinese military aggression against Taiwan. But he’s ambiguous about what exactly that means and what it is based on.”
According to the Defense Ministry of Taiwan, China sent 14 aircraft into Taiwan’s air defense zone while Biden was in Asia. No direct conflict was reported, but Taiwan scrambled fighter jets in response. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the president’s comments for affirming “rock-solid commitment to Taiwan.”
The ministry said Taiwan would “continue to improve its self-defense capabilities and deepen cooperation with the United States and Japan and other like-minded countries.”