US President Joe Biden said that American troops would defend Taiwan from an invasion attempt by China, marking at least the fourth time he has made that assertion. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 19 (UPI) -- U.S. President Joe Biden repeated his assertion that American forces would defend Taiwan militarily against an attempted invasion by China, a claim that he has made several times during his administration.
Biden made the remarks Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes" when asked by interviewer Scott Pelley if U.S. forces would defend the democratic island of 23 million.
"Yes, if in fact there was an unprecedented attack," Biden said. He confirmed that U.S. troops would be involved in the response, unlike in Ukraine.
The comments from Biden are at least the fourth time he has explicitly said that the United States would intervene militarily if China were to attack Taiwan, an apparent departure from Washington's official policy of "strategic ambiguity."
He last made the statement during a trip to Asia in May, drawing an angry reaction from China, which warned the United States against "playing with fire." Beijing views Taiwan as a wayward province that it has vowed to retake by force, if necessary.
As in previous cases, White House officials quickly followed up with a clarification, telling CBS that the administration's policy toward Taiwan "has not changed."
However, the president's remarks do not appear to be a slip of the tongue, according to analysts.
Biden's statement "can't come as a surprise to anyone who's been listening to him the last year or so," Sean King, senior vice president at New York-based political consultancy Park Strategies, told UPI.
"His comments are in line with general U.S. thinking on Taiwan at the moment," King said. "What's more, I'm sure Beijing for its part already just assumes the U.S. would intervene in any Taiwan conflict so long as Taipei doesn't instigate it."
Washington has strengthened its support for Taipei in the wake of increasing provocations from China as well as Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Tensions reached new heights last month when U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei, which a furious China responded to with a massive show of military force, including several days of live-fire combat exercises and missile launches over the island.
Biden said on Sunday that the United States still abides by the "One China" policy, which recognizes Beijing's position that there is only one Chinese government.
Washington does not accept Beijing's claim of sovereignty over Taiwan, however, and sells weapons to Taipei under a 1979 law that stipulates threats to the island are "of grave concern."
"Taiwan makes their own judgments about their independence," Biden said. "We're not encouraging their being independent ... that's their decision."
Earlier this month, the State Department approved a $1.1 billion package of arms sales to Taiwan, including a surveillance radar system and 60 anti-ship Harpoon missiles. The Chinese Embassy in Washington called on the United States to revoke the deal, saying it "severely jeopardizes" bilateral relations and warning of "counter-measures."
Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced a security bill that provides $6.5 billion in military assistance and designates Taiwan as a "major non-NATO ally."