In Tokyo, Biden says would be willing to use force to defend Taiwan

TOKYO: US President Joe Biden said on Monday he would be willing to use force to defend Taiwan, as part of a series of critical comments about China, but an aide said the remark represented no change in American policy on the self-ruled island.

Biden’s comment, made during his first visit to Japan since taking office, and as Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida looked on, appeared to be a departure from the existing US policy of so-called strategic ambiguity on Taiwan.

China considers the island its territory, part of “one China”, and says it is the most sensitive and important issue in its ties with the United States.

When a reporter asked Biden if the United States would defend Taiwan if it were attacked, the president answered: “Yes.”

“That’s the commitment we made,” he said, during a joint news conference with the Japanese leader. “We agree with a one-China policy. We’ve signed on to it and all the intended agreements made from there. But the idea that, that it can be taken by force, just taken by force, is just not, is just not appropriate.”

He added that it was his expectation that such an event would not happen or be attempted.

Following Biden’s comments, a White House official said there were was no change in policy towards Taiwan.

The president’s national security aides shifted in their seats and tilted their heads, studying Biden closely as he responded to the question on Taiwan. Several looked down as he made what appeared to be an unambiguous commitment to Taiwan’s defence.

Biden made a similar comment about defending Taiwan in October. At that time, a White House spokesperson said Biden was not announcing any change in US policy and one analyst referred to the comment as a “gaffe”.

The United States has long agreed that there is one China, including Taiwan, but it has adopted its “strategic ambiguity” on the question of whether it would get involved in military conflict over the island.

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