Taiwan has issued an official "thank you" to President Joe Biden for his latest commitment for U.S. forces to back the U.S. ally against any attack from China.
The Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) issued a statement on Monday referencing Biden's statement broadcast Sunday on "60 Minutes" in which he said, "Taiwan makes their own judgments about their independence," adding that the United States is "not encouraging their [Taiwan] being independent. ... That's their decision."
When asked by interviewer Scott Pelley if the United States would defend the self-ruled island nation if China invaded, as it seems to be indicating it will do, Biden said, "Yes," adding, "if in fact there was an unprecedented attack."
The White House immediately walked back the statement, telling CBS News that U.S. policy on Taiwan has not changed.
Biden has made the statement at least three times previously, only to have the White House walk the statement back.
The United States has an official "One China" policy but has diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
The U.S. officially maintains "strategic ambiguity" on U.S. forces defending Taiwan. The Taiwan Relations Act requires the U.S. to help equip Taiwan so that it can defend itself.
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of the Republic of China (Taiwan) extends its sincere appreciation to President Biden for once again emphasizing the staunch and rock-solid U.S. security commitment to Taiwan," Monday's statement read.
China's baseless escalation of provocative military activities in the Taiwan Strait, the Biden administration has repeatedly conveyed support for Taiwan through public statements and concrete actions," the statement read. "In addition to public statements by senior U.S. officials, the United States has facilitated statements by G7 Foreign Ministers, including the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and engaged in freedom of navigation operations in the Taiwan Strait, demonstrating a high regard and staunch support for Taiwan's security."
Meanwhile, China's government on Monday criticized Biden's statement, but gave no indication of possible retaliation.
The comment added to displays of official American support for the island democracy in the face of growing shows of force by the mainland's ruling Communist Party, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory.
Without citing Biden by name, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the "U.S. remarks" violate Washington's commitment not to support formal independence for Taiwan, a step Beijing has said would lead to war.
"China strongly deplores and rejects it and has made solemn complaints with the U.S. side," said the spokeswoman, Mao Ning.
Tension is rising following efforts by Chinese President Xi Jinping's government to intimidate Taiwan by firing missiles into the nearby sea and flying fighter jets toward the island after visits to Taipei by political figures including U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Mao called on Washington to "handle Taiwan-related issues prudently" and "not to send any wrong signals" to supporters of Taiwan independence "to avoid further damage to China-U.S. relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait."
Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war that ended with the Communist Party in control of the mainland. The two governments say they are one country but dispute which is entitled to be the national leader.
"We will do our utmost to strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification with the utmost sincerity, while we will not tolerate any activities aimed at splitting China and reserve the option to take all necessary measures," Mao said.
Taiwan's Foreign Ministry expressed "sincere gratitude" to Biden for "affirming the U.S. government's rock-solid promise of security to Taiwan."
Taiwan will "resist authoritarian expansion and aggression" and "deepen the close security partnership" with Washington and other governments "with similar thinking" to protect regional stability, the statement said.
Washington is obligated by federal law to see that Taiwan has the means to defend itself but doesn't say whether U.S. forces would be sent. The United States has no formal relations with the island but maintains informal diplomatic ties.
The Communist Party has persuaded most foreign governments to switch official recognition to Beijing, though many maintain informal ties have extensive trade and investment relations with Taiwan. The island's official diplomatic partners are mostly small, poor nations in Africa and Latin America.
"Taiwan is an inalienable part of China," Mao said. "The government of the People's Republic of China is the only legal government representing the whole of China."
Washington says it doesn't support formal independence for Taiwan, a stance Biden repeated in the interview broadcast Sunday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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