President Joe Biden says U.S. forces would defend Taiwan if China tries to invade the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing as part of its territory, adding to displays of official American support for the island democracy.
Biden said “yes” when asked during an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS News’s 60 Minutes program whether “U.S. forces, U.S. men and women would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.”
Asked to comment, a White House spokesperson said U.S. policy toward Taiwan had not changed. That policy says Washington wants to see Taiwan’s status resolved peacefully but doesn’t say whether U.S. forces might be sent in response to a Chinese attack.
“The president has said this before, including in Tokyo earlier this year. He also made clear then that our Taiwan policy hasn’t changed. That remains true,” the spokesperson said.
Tension is rising following efforts by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government to intimidate Taiwan by firing missiles into the nearby sea and flying fighter jets nearby amid visits to Taipei by political figures including U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry on Monday expressed “sincere gratitude” to Biden for “affirming the U.S. government’s rock-solid promise of security to Taiwan.”
Taiwan will “resist authoritarian expansion and aggression” and “deepen the close security partnership” with Washington and other governments “with similar thinking” to protect regional stability, the statement said.
Split after 1949 civil war
Washington is obligated by federal law to see that Taiwan has the means to defend itself but doesn’t say whether U.S. forces would be sent. The United States has no formal relations with the island but maintains informal diplomatic ties.
Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war that ended with the Communist Party in control of the mainland. The two governments say they are one country but dispute which is entitled to be the national leader.
Beijing criticizes official foreign contact with Taiwan’s elected government as encouragement to make its de facto independence permanent, a step the mainland says would lead to war.
Washington says it doesn’t support formal independence for Taiwan, a stance Biden repeated in the interview broadcast Sunday.
“Taiwan makes their own judgments about their independence,” the president said. “We’re not encouraging their being independent.”
In May, Biden said “yes” when asked at a news conference in Tokyo whether he was willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if China invaded.