Should there be an “unprecedented attack”, the US military will help defend Taiwan, said President Joe Biden on Sunday (18 Sep), reaffirming its commitments to the self-ruled island in the aftermath of the Chinese military exercises that drew close to Taiwan’s shores.
In a 60 Minutes interview on CBS, Mr Biden prevaricated when he asked whether Taiwan should be independent.
But when he was questioned by interviewer Scott Pelly if the US forces would “defend the island”, he pledged US commitment.
“Yes, if in fact that there was an unprecedented attack,” Mr Biden responded, according to the transcript provided by the broadcaster.
Pelley then asked the US President to further clarify what he meant by that, comparing it to the situation in Ukraine.
For the Ukrainian crisis, due to the existing tensions between Russia and US and NATO, the latter side has imposed economic sanctions on Russia and even provided humanitarian and defensive aid to Ukraine but has held back on sending actual forces to retaliate.
In the case of Taiwan, Biden confirmed that American men and women will be sent over to defend the island, should it be invaded by China.
Nonetheless, he emphasised in the interview that the United States’ recognition of the “One China” policy has not changed.
He maintains that the US will follow the agreements the two countries previously signed, namely the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the US-China Joint Communiques and Six Assurances.
“We are not moving; we are not encouraging their being independent. That is their decision,” added Mr Biden.
This response from the US is not surprising in the least because this is the stance that they have always maintained: strategic ambiguity.
The US acknowledges China’s claim over Taiwan, but will not actively support Taiwan’s reunification with the mainland, nor will it assist Taiwan in gaining independence.
Regardless of China’s outrage and accusations that US actions are heightening tensions in the Taiwan Strait—read Nancy Pelosi’s visit and its consequences for more details—US continues to sell defensive weapons to Taiwan.
As a matter of fact, in this month alone, the US has announced another round of weapon sales to Taiwan, totalling more than US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion).
Earlier this May, Biden made similar claims as well, except White House Officials disavowed it shortly thereafter.
Furthermore, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee drafted a bill on Wednesday that aims to strengthen ties with Taiwan and give it more military hardware to dissuade a Chinese invasion.
Before the legislation can become law, it will need to stand up against White House objections.
It is more than likely to go through, as defending Taiwan against Chinese influence has always received bipartisan support in the US House and Senate.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby reiterated, “We have been adamant about being committed to Taiwan’s self-defence and moving that forward.”
The Beijing government has yet to give an official response to the US President’s declaration.
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Featured Image: YouTube (60 Minutes)
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