US policy for Taiwan hasn’t changed despite Biden defense comment: official

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US policy for Taiwan hasn't changed despite Biden defense comment: official

A Biden administration official has clarified that the long-held US policy on Taiwan hasn’t actually changed, in an about-face after President Biden suggested the United States would defend the island if it were attacked.

In an interview with ABC News, Biden was asked about responses from other countries amid the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

He was specifically asked to respond to reports China was telling Taiwan that the US’ handling of the withdrawal proved Washington couldn’t be relied on to come to its defense.

Biden said there was a “fundamental difference” between the situation in Afghanistan and Taiwan, South Korea and NATO.

The president appeared to lump Taiwan in with countries that the US has explicit defense commitments with.  

“They are… entities we’ve made agreements with based on not a civil war they’re having on that island or in South Korea, but on an agreement where they have a unity government that, in fact, is trying to keep bad guys from doing bad things to them,” he said.

Pro-Taiwan independence activists displaying placards.
US relations with Taiwan have been unofficial since switching diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.
Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images

“We have made — kept every commitment. We made a sacred commitment to Article 5 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. It’s not even comparable to talk about that.”

A senior Biden administration official said on Thursday that US “policy with regard to Chinese-claimed Taiwan has not changed”.

Analysts have since said Biden appeared to have misspoken regarding his comments on Taiwan.

A Taiwanese flag flies in front of buildings in Taipei, Taiwan, on Monday, Nov. 9, 2015.
The US has a long-held policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether it should intervene if Taiwan came under attack by China
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The US has a long-held policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether it should intervene if Taiwan came under attack by China — in a concession to the Chinese Communist Party, that refuses to recognize Taiwan’s independence and democratically elected government.

US relations with Taiwan have been unofficial since switching diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.

With Post wires

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