The United States' policy toward China came into question after President Joe Biden on Monday again said the U.S. would defend Taiwan militarily against invasion — and the White House again softened the president's comments.
Biden, during a trip to Asia, said the U.S. would intervene militarily if China were to invade Taiwan, saying the burden to protect the island was "even stronger" after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The White House, though, quickly walked back Biden’s words, saying the U.S. position on China remained unchanged.
That U.S. stance is known as the "One China" policy, by which the U.S. recognizes the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government of China. However, the U.S. only acknowledges, and does not endorse, the communists’ position that Taiwan is part of China.
Washington maintains a "robust unofficial" relationship with Taiwan, The Washington Post reported, including continued arms sales to the island so that it can defend itself. Officially, the U.S. has abided by a policy of "strategic ambiguity" on whether it would defend Taiwan from an invasion.
Some people, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, have said the One China policy has worked because Beijing understood the U.S. would defend Taiwan if it were attacked.
Biden previously offered similar responses that the U.S. would defend Taiwan.
During a town hall meeting on CNN in October, Biden was told China had tested a hypersonic missile, and he was asked, “What will you do to keep up with them militarily, and can you vow to protect Taiwan?”
"Yes and yes," Biden responded.
Asked whether he was saying the U.S. would come to Taiwan’s defense if China attacked, Biden said: "Yes. Yes, we have a commitment to do that."
In August, the White House backtracked after Biden said, "We made a sacred commitment to Article Five that if in fact anyone were to invade or take action against our NATO allies, we would respond. Same with Japan, same with South Korea, same with — Taiwan."
However, the U.S. has no formal mutual-defense agreement with Taiwan, which split with China in 1949.
The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act states that the U.S. will ensure that Taiwan has the resources to defend itself, but it does not require U.S. military intervention if China invades.
In 2001, then-Sen. Biden criticized then-President George Bush for being too forceful in his comments about defending Taiwan.
"The United States has not been obligated to defend Taiwan since we abrogated the 1954 Mutual Defense Treaty signed by President Eisenhower and ratified by the Senate," Biden said then, the Post reported.
However, the outlet reported Biden then also wrote: "As a matter of diplomacy, there is a huge difference between reserving the right to use force and obligating ourselves, a priori, to come to the defense of Taiwan. The president should not cede to Taiwan, much less to China, the ability automatically to draw us into a war across the Taiwan Strait."
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