Biden says US would respond 'militarily' if China attacked Taiwan, but White House quickly downplays the comments and insists there's no policy changeBy Kevin Liptak, Donald Judd and Nectar Gan, CNN
Updated 3:18 PM ET, Mon May 23, 2022
Tokyo (CNN)President Joe Biden said Monday that the United States would intervene militarily if China attempts to take Taiwan by force, a warning that appeared to deviate from the deliberate ambiguity traditionally held by Washington.
The White House quickly downplayed the comments, saying they don't reflect a change in US policy. It's the third time in recent months -- including during a CNN town hall in October -- that Biden has said the US would protect Taiwan from a Chinese attack, only to have the White House walk back those remarks.
During a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, Biden was asked if the US would be willing to go further to help Taiwan in the event of an invasion than it did with Ukraine.
"You didn't want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?" a reporter asked.
"Yes," Biden replied. "That's the commitment we made."
"We agree with the One China policy. We signed on to it, and all the attendant agreements made from there, but the idea that it can be taken by force, just taken by force, is (just not) appropriate," he said.
Under the "One China" policy, the US acknowledges China's position that Taiwan is part of China, but has never officially recognized Beijing's claim to the self-governing island of 23 million. The US provides Taiwan defensive weapons, but has remained intentionally ambiguous on whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack.
Biden's strong warning was made right on China's doorstep during his first trip to Asia as President. The visit is aimed at uniting allies and partners to counter China's rising influence. It also came a day before Biden is scheduled to attend the second in-person summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) -- an informal grouping between the US, Japan, Australia and India that has alarmed Beijing.
Several of Biden's top administration officials were caught off-guard by the remarks, several aides told CNN, adding that they were not expecting Biden to be so unequivocal.
In a statement following Biden's comments, a White House official said the US' official position remained unchanged.
"As the President said, our policy has not changed. He reiterated our One China policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself," the official said.
Biden says US would respond 'militarily' if China attacked Taiwan, but White House insists there's no policy change
President Joe Biden said Monday that the United States would intervene militarily if China attempts to take Taiwan by force, a warning that appeared to deviate from the deliberate ambiguity traditionally held by Washington.