President Biden on Monday said the U.S. would be willing to defend Taiwan militarily if China were to try to take it by force.
“Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?” Biden was asked at a press conference in Tokyo alongside the Japanese prime minister.
“Yes,” Biden responded. “That’s the commitment we made. That’s the commitment we made.”
“Look, here’s the situation. We agree with the ‘One China’ policy … but the idea that to be taken by force, just taken by force, is just not appropriate,” Biden continued. “It will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.”
Biden said he does not believe China will attempt to take Taiwan by force, adding that the united global response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine can serve as a deterrent against possible aggression by Beijing.
The White House shortly after the press conference reiterated Biden’s comments that the U.S. position on Taiwan has not changed and it still abides by the “One China” policy, which recognizes Beijing as the representative government of China but considers Taiwan’s status unsettled.
Still, Monday is the latest instance of the president’s comments spurring some confusion.
In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin expressed “strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition” to Biden’s comments.
“China has no room for compromise or concessions on issues involving China’s core interests such as sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.
China has been increasingly aggressive in recent years, stepping up military flights into Taiwan’s airspace and sending ships through the Taiwan Strait. The pattern has raised alarms among the international community that Beijing may ultimately plan to take Taiwan by force.
Under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, the U.S. is committed to providing Taiwan with arms for its defense. The law does not commit the U.S. to sending troops to Taiwan to defend it.
Biden was asked at a CNN town hall last October whether the U.S. would defend Taiwan if it were attacked by China, and he said the U.S. would.
The White House quickly walked back Biden’s comments at the time, saying he was not announcing a policy change.
Updated at 5:05 a.m.