Biden angers China with promise to defend Taiwan

President Joe Biden delivers remarks during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the East Room of the White House on February 7, 2022.

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

  • President Joe Biden has compared China’s threat to Taiwan’s self-governance to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • Beijing has recently stepped up military pressure on Taiwan.
  • The United States is committed to providing Taiwan with the means to defend itself.

President Joe Biden vowed on Monday that US forces would militarily defend Taiwan if China tried to take control of the island by force, prompting Beijing to warn that the US was “playing with fire”.

Speaking in Tokyo, Biden compared China’s threat to Taiwan’s self-rule to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, delivering his strongest comments to date on the issue amid rising tensions over Beijing’s growing economic and military might.

When asked if Washington was willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan, he gave the unequivocal answer: “Yes… That is the commitment we made.”

“We agreed to the One China policy, we signed it,” Biden said, referring to Washington’s diplomatic recognition of Beijing as the sole government of China.

“But the idea that it can be taken by force is just not appropriate,” he said of Taiwan. “It would dislocate the entire region and it would be another action similar to Ukraine.”

Beijing, which considers Taiwan a rogue province and has recently stepped up military pressure on the island, has warned that Washington is playing a risky game.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin stated that China “has no room for compromises or concessions” when it comes to its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The United States is “playing with fire”, warned the Taiwan Affairs Office of the Chinese State Council.

Washington is “using the ‘Taiwan card’ to contain China and it will burn,” said Zhu Fenglian, a spokesman for the bureau.

Zhu “urged the United States to stop any comments or actions” that violate previously established principles between the two countries.

– Comparing Taiwan with Ukraine –

Biden’s remarks, at a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, offered democratic Taiwan its best reassurance in decades, but also brought more uncertainty to the US position.

Since switching recognition to Beijing in 1979, the United States has vowed to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, but has maintained “strategic ambiguity” over whether it would intervene militarily.

The policy was designed both to prevent Beijing from declaring war and to prevent Taiwan from formally declaring independence.

But a growing electorate in the United States is advocating a shift to “strategic clarity,” believing that an explicit promise to defend Taiwan is needed to deter an increasingly assertive and powerful Beijing.

Biden compared Taiwan’s situation directly to Ukraine, which has received billions of dollars in weapons and aid from the United States since the Russian invasion on February 24.

He said Western sanctions against Russia must exact a “long-term price,” because otherwise “what signal does that send to China about the cost of trying to take Taiwan by force?”

He warned that Beijing was already “flirting with danger right now by flying so close and all the maneuvering done,” referring to a growing number of Chinese incursions, naval exercises and other projections of power into the Taiwan Strait.

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