President Joe Biden said Monday that the United States would come to Taiwan’s defense militarily if China invades and tries to take over the self-ruled island by force.
“That’s the commitment we made,” Biden said in a news conference in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
U.S. relations with the island are governed by the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which outlines the U.S. commitment to help Taiwan maintain its military defense. It does not require the U.S. to intervene militarily – which Biden has ruled out in Ukraine.
After Biden made a similar comment about defending Taiwan in October, the White House emphasized there was no change in policy.
On Monday, Biden and Kishida said they still support the “One China” policy that recognizes there is only one Chinese government.
“But that does not mean that China has the jurisdiction to go in and use force to take over Taiwan,” Biden said. “It will dislocate the entire region.”
That’s one of the reasons why, he said, Russia must pay a “dear price” for its invasion of Ukraine. If Russia is not held accountable, Biden said, “then what signal does that send to China about the cost of attempting, of attempting, to take Taiwan by force?”
“They’re already flirting with danger right now by flying so close and all the maneuvers they’ve undertaken.”
While the U.S. is heavily arming Ukraine’s military and providing intelligence assistance, Biden has maintained he won’t send troops to fight against Russian forces. That could risk a world war with a nuclear power.
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China views Taiwan as part of its territory, while Taiwan sees itself as an independent, sovereign nation. The U.S. has long tried to navigate a fraught middle ground that aims to support Taiwan without infuriating China.
But the Biden administration has rebuked Beijing for its military aggression against Taiwan, which has included sending warplanes into the island’s air defense zone.
One of the purposes of Biden’s five-day trip to Asia was to send the message that he’s still paying attention to the region despite the war in Ukraine.
He has a close ally in Japan, which has played a major role in the international coalition supporting Ukraine and is boosting its defense budget as tensions increase in the Indo-Pacific.
“Peace and stability must be upheld and defended,” Kishida said, speaking through an interpreter. He said Japan has “full confidence” in the U.S. response, including “extended deterrence.”
“The true value of the Japan-U.S. alliance is being tested more stringently than ever before,” he said.
Biden on Monday backed Japan’s desire to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.
He said Japan has been an “outstanding partner” throughout the crisis in Ukraine.