Biden says US would defend Taiwan if attacked by China

US President suggests he would intervene in a Chinese invasion in apparent break with decades-long policy.

US President Joe Biden has said he would use force to defend Taiwan if it was attacked by China, appearing to signal a shift away from Washington’s decades-long policy of so-called strategic ambiguity towards the East Asian democracy.

Biden’s made the remarks while visiting Japan on Monday, where the president is on the second leg of his first trip to East Asia since taking office last year.

Responding to a reporter’s questions at a press conference alongside Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Biden said defending Taiwan was a “commitment we made”.

Biden said that while the US agrees with the “one China policy” – which states there is a single China without defining it – the idea that “Taiwan can be taken by force” is “not appropriate”.

Neither, he said, is dislocating “the entire region” or “another action similar to what happened in Ukraine”.

The US has long promised to help Taiwan defend itself under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, but it has stopped short of pledging to send troops or directly intervene.

The Act says only that Washington will “make available to Taiwan such defence articles and defence services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defence capability”.

The commitment was made as an assurance the US would not abandon Taiwan after Washington officially severed ties with Taipei in favour of Beijing that same year.

Taipei at the time claimed to represent the legitimate government of China but has largely stopped asserting its claim since democratisation in the 1990s.

Beijing still claims Taiwan, whose formal name is the Republic of China, as a province and has not ruled out unifying the two sides by force.

This is the third time that Biden, 79, has made such a statement. In October, he made a similar remark to reporters, but it was quickly walked back by White House staff.

Despite efforts by US officials to contain Biden’s comments, the US has in recent years appeared to be edging away from strategic ambiguity, according to some security analysts.

The trend began under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, whose administration launched an ambitious trade war against China and boosted ties with Taipei through arms sales and diplomatic visits.

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