Joe Biden says US 'would defend Taiwan' if it was attacked by China

Beijing has condemned a comment by US president Joe Biden, saying he would defend Taiwan if it was attacked by China.

Speaking to US TV channel CBS, Mr Biden was asked if US troops would defend the island.

He said they would if there was an “unprecedented attack."

Washington has since insisted that there is no change to its official policy on Taiwan, dubbed “strategic ambiguity” by observers.

US President Joe Biden, accompanied by First Lady Jill Biden is welcomed by Master of the Household Sir Tony Johnstone-Burt at Buckingham Palace in London on Saturday. Picture: AFP via Getty Images

China claims Taiwan as its own territory and opposes it having its own engagements with foreign governments. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has said that “reunification” between China and Taiwan is inevitable.

China’s foreign ministry said it had made "stern representations" with Washington over Mr Biden's comments.

The US Government has acknowledged Beijing’s “One China” policy and has diplomatic relations with the Chinese Government, but does not officially recognise China’s claim to Taiwan. However, it also sells arms to it under the Taiwan Relations Act, which states that the US must provide the island with the means to defend itself.

Tensions between the US and China worsened in August, when US house speaker Nancy Pelosi became the highest-ranking US official to visit the self-governing island in 25 years.

In retaliation, China launched threatening military exercises in the Taiwan Strait, while missiles were also reportedly been fired over Taiwan.

Chinese officials also announced unspecified sanctions on Ms Pelosi, with the foreign ministry in Beijing saying the US house speaker had disregarded China's concerns and resolute opposition to her visit.

In the interview, with CBS’ 60 Minutes, Mr Biden, who is currently in the UK for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, said that the US would not specifically encourage Taiwan to become fully independent.

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He said: “We agree with what we signed onto a long time ago. And that there’s ‘one China’ policy, and Taiwan makes their own judgements about their independence. We are not moving – we’re not encouraging their being independent …that’s their decision,” he said.

The interviewer asked if “US forces, US men and women would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.”

Mr Biden responded "Yes, if in fact, there was an unprecedented attack."

Ms Pelosi was defiant over her trip - despite even Mr Biden saying that official visits were “not a good idea right now” - saying that Beijing was trying to “isolate” Taiwan.

"They may try to keep Taiwan from visiting or participating in other places, but they will not isolate Taiwan by preventing us to travel there," she said at the time.

China and Russia have demonstrated an increasing alliance in recent months. At a regional summit in Uzbekistan, Mr Xi and president Vladimir Putin agreed that Chinese control of the island of 23 million people is a non-negotiable “red line.”

Mr Xi also said he appreciated “Russia’s adherence to the “one China’ principle” and insisted that Taiwan is a part of China.

Mr Biden’s comments are the fourth time in recent months that he has indicated the US would provide military support for Taiwan, only to have the White House roll back on his remarks afterwards.


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