Biden says U.S. will defend Taiwan militarily against China invasion

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SEOUL, May 23 (UPI) — President Joe Biden said Monday that the United States would intervene militarily to defend Taiwan in the event of an invasion by China, which has vowed to retake the self-governing island that it views as a wayward province.

“That’s the commitment we made,” Biden said in response to a question during a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

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“Here’s the situation,” Biden said. “We agree with the One China policy. We signed on to it, and all the attendant agreements made from there, but the idea that [Taiwan] can be taken by force … it would dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.”

“So it’s a burden that’s even stronger,” Biden added.

Under the One China policy, Washington recognizes Beijing’s position that there is only one Chinese government and does not have diplomatic relations with Taipei.

At the same time, the United States sells weapons to Taiwan under a 1979 law and stipulates threats to the island are “of grave concern to the United States.”

Biden’s remark appears to be a departure from Washington’s official policy of “strategic ambiguity” around how forcefully the United States would respond in defense of Taiwan. He has made similar statements in the past, which officials have been quick to smooth over.

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On Monday, a White House official told reporters after the press conference that Washington’s position on Taiwan was not changing course.

“As the President said, our policy has not changed,” the official said, according to CNN. “He reiterated our One China policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself.”

China has sent dozens of warplanes into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone in recent weeks as it ratchets up military provocations against the democratic island of 23 million people.

Biden is in Japan on the second leg of an Asia trip meant to boost economic and security ties with allies in an effort to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the region. He started his visit in South Korea, where he met with President Yoon Suk-yeol and agreed to discuss expanding joint military drills in response to North Korea‘s missile and nuclear threats.

Later on Monday, Biden will unveil one of the key pieces of his administration’s Asia policy: the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, or IPEF, a U.S. led initiative that focuses on issues including supply chain resiliency, the digital economy and clean energy.

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Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan confirmed that Taiwan will not be part of the framework at launch.