Biden says U.S. military will defend Taiwan if China invades

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WASHINGTON, Sept 18 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said U.S. troops would defend Taiwan if China invaded it, his clearest statement yet on the issue, sure to anger Beijing. .

Asked in a CBS 60 Minutes interview aired on Sunday whether the U.S. military would defend the self-governing islands claimed by China, he replied: “Yes, if in fact there is an unprecedented attack.”

Asked if he meant that unlike Ukraine, the U.S. military — American men and women — would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, Biden replied: “Yes.”

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The interview was only the latest time Biden seemed to go beyond long-standing U.S. policy toward Taiwan, but his statement about sending U.S. troops to defend Taiwan was clearer than previous ones.

The United States has long adhered to a policy of “strategic ambiguity” and has not made it clear whether it will respond militarily to an attack on Taiwan.

When asked for comment, a White House spokesman said there had been no change in U.S. policy toward Taiwan.

“The president has said it before, including in Tokyo earlier this year. He also made it clear at the time that our Taiwan policy has not changed. That remains true,” the spokesman said.

The CBS interview with Biden was conducted last week. The president was in Britain on Monday for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.

Asked in May if he would be willing to take part in military defense of Taiwan, Biden replied: “Yes … that’s a promise we made.”

In the 60 Minutes interview, Biden reiterated that the United States does not support Taiwanese independence and remains committed to the “one China” policy, whereby Washington formally recognizes Beijing rather than Taipei.

Biden’s remarks are sure to anger Beijing, which is furious over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August visit to Taiwan.

That visit prompted China to conduct its largest-ever military exercise in Taiwan, where China protested against U.S. lawmakers pushing for legislation to bolster U.S. military support for more

Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to bring democratically administered Taiwan under Beijing’s control and has not ruled out the use of force.

A request for comment from the Chinese embassy in Washington was not immediately responded to.

In July this year, Xi Jinping warned against playing with fire on the Taiwan issue in a phone call with Biden, saying “those who play with fire will die.”read more

Asked last October whether the United States would come to defend Taiwan, which is required by law to provide Taiwan with means of self-defense, Biden said: “Yes, we have a commitment to do so.”

At the time, a White House spokesman said Biden had not announced any changes in U.S. policy, a comment some experts called a “gaffe.”read more

If Biden makes such pledges, he needs to make sure he can back them, said Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the German Marshall Fund in the United States.

“If President Biden plans to defend Taiwan, then he should make sure that the U.S. military is capable of doing so,” she said. “Voal support without actual capability support is unlikely to enhance deterrence.”

Biden’s Asia policy czar, Kurt Campbell, has in the past rejected any move for “strategic clarity” on Taiwan, saying there are “significant downsides” to such an approach.

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Reporting by David Brunnstrom, Costas Pitas, Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Lincoln Feast.

Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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