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Biden says US forces would defend Taiwan

Joe Biden's statement on the US defence of Taiwan

Source: Twitter/60 Minutes

US President Joe Biden has delivered his most explicit statement yet on Taiwan, saying US forces would defend the island if there was an “unprecedented” Chinese invasion.

Asked in a CBS 60 Minutes interview if US forces would defend the self-ruled island claimed by China, Mr Biden said: “Yes, if in fact, there was an unprecedented attack.”

Asked to clarify if he meant that – unlike in Ukraine – US forces, men and women, would defend Taiwan if China invaded, Mr Biden said: “Yes.”

The interview, which aired on Sunday, prompting the White House to reiterate that US policy had not changed.

Washington’s policy has always been one of “strategic ambiguity” – it does not commit to defending Taiwan, but also does not rule out the option.

Sunday’s interview was just the latest time that Mr Biden had appeared to go beyond that long-standing stated US policy on Taiwan. But his statement was clearer than earlier ones about committing US troops to the defend the island.

Asked to comment, a White House spokesperson said US policy towards Taiwan had not changed.

“The President has said this before, including in Tokyo earlier this year. He also made clear then that our Taiwan policy hasn’t changed. That remains true,” the spokesperson said.

The CBS interview with Mr Biden was conducted last week. He is in Britain for the Queen’s funeral on Monday.

The US has long stuck to a policy of not making clear whether it would respond militarily to an attack on Taiwan.

In May, Mr Biden was asked if he was willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan and replied “Yes … That’s the commitment we made.”

In the 60 Minutes interview, Mr Biden reiterated that the US did not support Taiwanese independence and remained committed to a “One-China” policy in which Washington officially recognises Beijing not Taipei.

The US has long walked a diplomatic tightrope on the disputed island. Under its One China policy, Taiwan is a part of China and the position is not challenged.

So the US does not recognise it as a separate state and has no diplomatic ties with the island. But it maintains close relations and sells arms to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act, which states that the US must provide the island with the means to defend itself. Its One China policy is a cornerstone of its relationship with Beijing.

Earlier this year, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sparked controversy with a rare visit to Taiwan – a highly controversial trip that was strongly opposed by Beijing.

Mr Biden described the trip as “not a good idea”.

It also sparked a five-day military blockade of the waters around Taiwan by China.

-with AAP

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