US President Joe Biden has said the United States would come to Taiwan’s defence if the island were attacked by China, in comments that appeared to be a departure from a longstanding US policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’.
“Yes,” he responded when asked in a CNN town hall about defending Taiwan, whose government has been under mounting military and political pressure from Beijing, which claims the island as its own. “We have a commitment to that.”
The US has for years maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity” under which it provides key military support to Taiwan, but does not explicitly promise to come to the island’s aid in the event of a Chinese attack.
The White House later told reporters that US policy on Taiwan had “not changed”.
“The US defence relationship with Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act. We will uphold our commitment under the Act, we will continue to support Taiwan’s self-defence, and we will continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo,” a spokesperson said.
In August, a Biden administration official said US policy on Taiwan had not changed after the president appeared to suggest the United States would defend the island if it were attacked.
Earlier this month, President Biden appeared to suggest there was an ‘agreement‘ between China and the US over Taiwan.
China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan in recent months and sent dozens of its aircraft into the islands’ air defence identification zone (ADIZ) in a series of sorties that started on October 1, China’s National Day.
Taiwan’s Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said earlier this month that military tension across the strait was at its worst in more than 40 years, and that China would be capable of mounting a “full-scale” invasion by 2025.
Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its freedoms and democracy.