On Monday, President Joe Biden gave a signal that he would use military force to defend Taiwan if it were ever attacked by China. In doing so, he eschewed the “strategic ambiguity” that has historically been favoured by American presidents and drew a clearer line at a time when tensions are rising in the region.
During a visit to Japan, Mr. Biden held a news conference where he hinted that he would be willing to go further on behalf of Taiwan than he has in helping Ukraine. In Ukraine, Mr. Biden has provided tens of billions of dollars’ worth of weapons as well as intelligence assistance to help defeat Russian invaders, but he has refused to send American troops.
The declaration made by the president, which was made without any qualifications or explanations, laid the groundwork for the escalation of tensions between the United States and China. China maintains that Taiwan is an inalienable part of its territory and that it cannot exist as a sovereign nation.
It also came as a surprise to several officials of Mr. Biden’s own administration who were watching from inside the room. They had not anticipated him to guarantee such unwavering determination. Throughout history, the United States of America has repeatedly cautioned China against using force against Taiwan, but it has, for the most part, remained ambiguous over the extent to which it would assist Taiwan in the event of a military confrontation.
It didn’t take long for the White House to launch a campaign to dispel the notion that President Trump meant what he seemed to be saying. In a statement that was hastily sent to the press, the White House said, “Our policy has not changed, as the President himself has stated.” He reaffirmed our adherence to the One China Policy as well as our commitment to maintaining peace and stability on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Additionally, he reaffirmed our commitment, as stated in the Taiwan Relations Act, to provide Taiwan with the military capabilities necessary for it to defend itself.
Mr. Biden and no one else in his administration clarified on what what would be included by being “militarily engaged,” and the president did not answer to questions at a later event asking for further details about what would be entailed by getting “militarily involved.” Nevertheless, he gave the distinct sense that he intended to convey the idea that American military would be sent to Taiwan in some capacity.
In his role as president, Joe Biden has rejected the precedent set by his predecessors, who were known for their habitual imprecision with respect to China and Taiwan. As he was comforting friends in August of last year after making the choice to quit the government of Afghanistan, he vowed that “we would react” if there was an assault on a fellow member of NATO, and then he added, “same with Japan, same with South Korea, and same with Taiwan.”
The United States has never provided the same level of security assurances to Taiwan that it has provided to Japan, South Korea, or any of America’s NATO allies; hence, the statement was taken very seriously. Two months later, at a town hall meeting that was broadcast on television, Mr. Biden was asked whether the United States would defend Taiwan in the event of an invasion. He responded by saying, “Yes, we have a commitment to achieve that.” That sparked a frenetic attempt by the White House to walk back his comments by claiming that he was not altering the policy that has been in place for a long time.
Because of China’s authoritarian turn under Mr. Xi and its actions to repress pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong, any greater political links to the nation have become distasteful for many people in Taiwan. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has increased the sense of urgency in Washington, where officials are re-examining Taiwan’s defence capabilities to guarantee that the country could successfully repel an attack.
Even in Asia, many have been keeping a careful eye on the conflict to see what kind of insights it may provide about China’s policies on Taiwan. Some others believed that if Russia were to successfully capture Ukraine, which was a part of its empire in the past, it would create a terrible precedent. The fact that Russia was unable to completely seize control of the country and that the western nations responded as one may serve as a deterrent to future military aggression.
The unplanned remark made by Mr. Biden placed Japan in a precarious situation. Because Taiwan lies just 105 kilometres (65 miles) away from Yonaguni, the westernmost populated island of Japan, a war with China might potentially have significant repercussions for Japan, which has rejected the idea of engaging in military warfare ever since it was defeated in World War II.