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Biden says he would be willing to use force to defend Taiwan against China

World May 23, 2022 01:32PM ET
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5/5 © Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden arrives aboard Air Force One at Yokota U.S. Air Force Base in Fussa, on the outskirts of Tokyo, Japan May 22, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon 2/5

By Trevor Hunnicutt and Sakura Murakami

TOKYO (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden said on Monday he would be willing to use force to defend Taiwan against Chinese aggression in a comment that seemed to stretch the limits of the ambiguous U.S. policy towards the self-ruled island.

While Washington is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, it has long followed a policy of "strategic ambiguity" on whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.

After Biden made the remark at a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, an aide said the president's statement represented no change in the long-standing American stance to the island that China claims as its own.

A reporter asked Biden if the United States would defend Taiwan if it were attacked. "Yes," the president answered.

"That's the commitment we made," said Biden, who helped build an international coalition trying to thwart Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"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 (Taiwan) can be taken by force, just taken by force, is just not, is just not appropriate," he said.

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

But the comment was likely to be closely watched in a region worried about China's rising influence. China has been a key topic for Biden on his inaugural trip to Asia.

A White House official later said there was no change in policy toward Taiwan, a point reiterated by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at a Pentagon briefing.

"As the president said, our 'one China' policy has not changed," Austin said. He said Biden had stressed the U.S. commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act "to help provide Taiwan the means to defend itself."

China considers the democratic island its territory, under its "one China" principle, and says it is the most sensitive and important issue in its relationship with Washington.

China has no room for compromise or concessions on matters relating to its sovereignty and territorial integrity, foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a news briefing.

Taiwan's foreign ministry thanked Biden for his support.

Biden's national security aides shifted in their seats and appeared to be studying Biden closely as he responded to the question on Taiwan. Several looked down.

Biden made a similar comment in October, saying "Yes, we have a commitment to do that" when asked if the United States would come to the defense of Taiwan. At that time, a White House spokesperson said Biden was not announcing any change in U.S. policy and one analyst referred to the comment as a "gaffe".

Despite the White House insistence that Monday's comments did not represent a change of policy, Grant Newsham, a retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel and now a research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, said the meaning was clear.

"This statement deserves to be taken seriously," Newsham said. "It is a clear enough statement that the U.S. will not sit by if China attacks Taiwan."

'TOUGHEN THE POLICY'

Biden made other tough comments about Beijing's increasingly assertive posture in the region, saying he hoped Russian President Vladimir Putin would pay a price for his invasion of Ukraine in part to show China what it would face if it were to invade Taiwan.

"They're seeking to toughen their policy but without necessarily provoking China," said James Brown, an associate professor at Temple University Japan.

Biden's remarks are also likely to overshadow the centrepiece of his Japan visit, the launch of an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a broad plan providing an economic pillar for U.S. engagement with Asia.

During his time in Tokyo, Biden is also scheduled to meet the leaders of India and Australia - the other members of the Quad, an informal security grouping formed to counter China's growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Japanese premier Kishida emphasised Tokyo's readiness to take a more robust defence posture, something the United States has long welcomed.

Kishida said he told Biden that Japan would consider various options to boost its defence capabilities, including the ability to retaliate. That would include a "considerable increase" in its defence budget, Kishida said.

Japan's role in any conflict over Taiwan would be to enable a U.S. operation and help the United States defend its assets, said Yoji Koda, a retired Maritime Self Defense Force admiral and former fleet commander.

"Japan's role in that would be substantial. Japan is an enabler of that security deterrence," he said.

Kishida said that he had gained support from Biden on Japan becoming a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council amid growing calls for reform of the council. China and Russia are permanent members.

UPDATE 1-Biden's Asian economic talks include 13 countries, and no ChinaChina's foreign ministry hits back at Biden comments on U.S. aiding Taiwan militarilyTaiwan foreign ministry thanks Biden for reaffirming safety commitment TIMELINE-Comments by Biden and others on U.S. policy of 'ambiguity' on Taiwan

Biden says he would be willing to use force to defend Taiwan against China
 

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Comments (7)
Elezabeth Thomas
Elezabeth Thomas May 23, 2022 6:28PM ET
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Biden has no desire for unity, continues to bicker over negligible amounts...a little here, a little over there. [ BALONEY ]. END the Ukraine war. AHORA!!
Brad Albright
Brad Albright May 23, 2022 11:56AM ET
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Not since Ronald Regan has the U.S, had such a great international leader.
Thomas Simpson
Thomas Simpson May 23, 2022 10:24AM ET
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Big Joe thinks there are shortages now. Get into a war with China.
Mathias Willems
Mathias Willems May 23, 2022 10:24AM ET
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as a european i would also say let them have it, ukraine is enough already...
Dennis Chuck
Dennis Chuck May 23, 2022 7:28AM ET
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US can invade any country they like, any country they deem rogue, any country they deem terrorist, and without repercusions. Why would the rest of the world bend their will and control by US??? US willing to defend taiwan if China attack - We shall see about that!
lup sup
lup sup May 23, 2022 7:28AM ET
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Defend Taiwan but not Ukraine?
pcqsn smwop
pcqsn smwop May 23, 2022 7:28AM ET
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Talk big
Ivan Lazo
Ivan Lazo May 23, 2022 7:28AM ET
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Shut up Joe and sit down, you probably don’t even know what day it is.
lup sup
lup sup May 23, 2022 7:28AM ET
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He has forgotten to take his med today.
pcqsn smwop
pcqsn smwop May 23, 2022 7:28AM ET
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Agree guys
jason xx
jason xx May 23, 2022 5:08AM ET
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Re arm Japan and revive their warrior culture. They can handle China on their own.
Tony Barnes
Tony Barnes May 23, 2022 5:08AM ET
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When the entire population of China spit on Japan, the entire nation will sink
Keith Wilson
Keith Wilson May 23, 2022 5:08AM ET
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Biden.....the great unifier Lol
Tony Barnes
Tony Barnes May 23, 2022 12:23AM ET
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US and Japan good friends? We are good friends because of circumstances, we never were and are good friends.
jason xx
jason xx May 23, 2022 12:23AM ET
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You are living in the past Japan is a strong ally
Tony Barnes
Tony Barnes May 23, 2022 12:23AM ET
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yeah ally because US and Japan needs each other to counter China and North Korea. That's why they are ally.
ben ten
ben ten May 23, 2022 12:23AM ET
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Because there are still US troops stationed in Japan?
ben ten
ben ten May 23, 2022 12:23AM ET
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Because there are still US troops stationed in Japan?
Brad Albright
Brad Albright May 23, 2022 12:23AM ET
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Tony Barnes That,.. and because they support each other's economies and appreciate each other's culture and like each other.
 
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