Beijing said on Monday President Joe Biden’s latest comments that the United States would defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion “seriously violate” Washington’s policy toward the island.
Washington severed formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979, shifting recognition to Beijing as China’s sole representative – but it has retained a decisive, if delicate, role in supporting the island ever since.
In an interview with US broadcaster CBS that aired on Sunday, Biden was asked if US troops would defend Taiwan, and said “yes”, if it was “an unprecedented attack”.
He went on to say that Taiwan makes its “own judgments” on independence and that the United States does not encourage…independence.”
“It’s their decision,” I said.
China reacted angrily on Monday, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning telling a regular press briefing: “The American remarks (…) gravely violate the important commitment made by the United States not to support Taiwan independence and send a seriously wrong signal to separatist Taiwanese independence forces”. .”
“We are willing to make the greatest sincere efforts to fight for the prospect of peaceful reunification,” Mao said.
“At the same time, we will never tolerate any activity aimed at dividing the country and we reserve the choice to take all necessary measures.”
Tensions between China and the United States are already higher than usual following a rare visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi, a key Biden ally and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Last week, a US Senate committee took the first step toward granting billions of dollars in military aid directly to Taiwan and formalizing ties.
The United States approved a potential arms sale worth more than $1 billion to Taiwan in early September, including 60 anti-ship missiles and 100 air-to-air missiles, which angered the China.
“We urge the US side to fully recognize the extreme importance and high sensitivity of the Taiwan issue… (and) seriously implement the commitment made by the US leadership not to support Taiwanese independence. “, added Mao.
– ‘Strategic ambiguity’ –
Biden’s comments appeared to deviate from decades of US policy towards Taiwan.
Although Washington is arming Taiwan, it has long maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity” over whether it would intervene militarily if Beijing were to invade.
The policy is designed to deter both China from invading and Taiwan from formally declaring independence.
As on previous occasions when Biden appeared to change US policy on the island, the White House insisted the remarks did not indicate a change.
In May, Biden signaled again that he would use military force to defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion, but offered no clarification.
Biden’s new comments are “dangerous, even if not an official policy change,” wrote Jessica Chen Weiss, professor of government at Cornell University, on Twitter.
“More explicit here than in previous blunders is the suggestion that the United States would send troops to fight for Taiwan no matter what Taiwan does,” she wrote, adding that this “will reinforce the perception that the United States give a blank check to Taiwan”.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry, however, on Monday expressed “sincere gratitude” for Biden’s support.