On the Asia trip, Biden said he would be willing to use force to defend Taiwan

  • White House official says no policy change
  • China says the US should not defend Taiwan independence
  • The United States wants to tighten policy without provoking a Beijing analyst
  • Biden visits Japan for his first presidential trip to Asia

TOKYO (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said on Monday he would be willing to use force to defend Taiwan, capping a series of critical comments about China while in Asia that an aide said did not represent any change in U.S. policy toward self. controlled island.

Biden’s remarks, made during his first visit to Japan since taking office, were seen by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, as a departure from the current US policy of so-called strategic ambiguity over Taiwan.

China regards the democratic island as its territory under the “one China” policy, and says it is the most sensitive and important issue in its relationship with Washington.

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When a reporter asked Biden during a joint news conference with the Japanese leader if the United States would defend Taiwan if it was attacked, the president replied: “Yes.”

“This is the commitment we made,” he said.

“We agree with the one-China policy. We signed it and all the intended agreements that were made from there. But the idea that it can be taken by force, only by force, is not just inappropriate.”

Biden added that he had expected that such an event would not happen or be attempted.

A White House official later said there had been no change in policy toward Taiwan. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the United States should not defend Taiwan’s independence.

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The president’s national security aides turned their seats and seemed to study Biden closely as he answered the question regarding Taiwan. Several of them looked down as he made what appeared to be an unequivocal commitment to defend Taiwan.

Biden made a similar comment about defending Taiwan in October. At the time, a White House spokesperson said Biden had not announced any change in US policy, and one analyst referred to the comment as a “mistake.”

Despite the White House’s insistence that Monday’s comments do not represent a change in US policy, Grant Newsham, a retired US Marine colonel and now a scholar at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, said the meaning is clear.

“This statement deserves to be taken seriously,” Newsham said. “It is a clear enough statement that the United States will not sit idly by if China attacks Taiwan.”

While Washington is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, it has long pursued a policy of “strategic ambiguity” about whether to intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.

‘tightening policy’

Biden made other tough statements about Beijing’s increasingly assertive stance in the region, saying he hoped Russian President Vladimir Putin would pay the price for his invasion of Ukraine in part to show China what it would face if it invaded Taiwan.

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“They are seeking to toughen their policy but without necessarily provoking China,” said James Brown, associate professor at Temple University in Japan.

Biden’s remarks are also likely to overshadow the focus of his visit to Japan, the launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a broad plan that provides an economic underpinning for the United States’ engagement with Asia. Read more

During his tour of Asia, Biden is also set to meet with leaders of India and Australia — other members of the Quartet, an informal security group formed to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Kishida emphasized Tokyo’s willingness to take a more aggressive defensive posture, something the United States had long welcomed.

The Japanese leader said he told Biden that Japan would study various options to enhance its defensive capabilities, including the ability to retaliate. This would include a “significant increase” in the defense budget, Kishida said.

Yuji Koda, a retired Maritime Self-Defense Force admiral and former fleet commander, said Japan’s role in any conflict over Taiwan would be to enable a US operation and help the US defend its assets.

“Japan’s role in this will be significant. Japan is an enabler of this security deterrence,” he said.

Kishida said he had Biden’s support for Japan to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council amid growing calls for council reform. China and Russia are permanent members.

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(Trevor Honeycutt Reporting) Additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Sakura Murakami, Chang Ran Kim, Nobuhiro Kubo, Daniel Losink, Kantaro Komiya, Jo Min Park and Tim Kelly; Writing by Eileen Lies and David Dolan; Editing by Robert Percell and Simon Cameron-Moore

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