President Joe Biden stated unequivocally that the US would intervene militarily on behalf of Taiwan should China invade its territory. Biden was speaking in Tokyo at a conference with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
Noting that the US didn't want to "get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons," a reporter asked "are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?"
"Yes," Biden said almost wistfully.
"You are," the reporter confirms.
"That's the commitment we made," Biden said. "That's the commitment we made. We are not—look. Here's the situation: we agree with the One China policy, we've signed onto it, and all of the attendant agreements made from there.
"But the idea that, that it could be taken by force, just taken by force, is just not appropriate. It will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine. And so it’s a burden that is even stronger," Biden said.
Past presidents have offered what The New York Times calls "strategic ambiguity" when confronted with questions about a military response to a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
Apparently Biden's staff was also surprised with the outright admission that the US would offer more than aid to Taiwan, as has been done in Ukraine, but actual military assistance further than arms and resources.
The US had been walking a fine line up to this point, with statements about support for Taiwan, without saying exactly what that support would entail. This statement from Biden represents a departure in message from the White House.
A statement from the White House sought to backtrack the President's comments, in a move that the press has become accustomed to over the past year and a half since Biden took office.
"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," read the statement from staff.
It was in August that, after a similar statement by Biden that the US "would respond" if there were an attack against Taiwan, staff claimed that Biden was not changing the policy of the US. He had said then that the US has a "commitment" to defend Taiwan.
If China were to invade Taiwan while the US were still supplying weapons to Ukraine to fight off their Russian aggressors, the US would be engaged in conflict against their greatest global rivals, Russia and China, at the same time, on two continents.
Taiwan was pleased with Biden's remarks. Taiwan's Foreign Ministry expressed "gratitude" for the statement, the Times reported, for Biden's "rock-solid commitment to Taiwan." It was in October that they asked for help, saying that it was preparing for war against China. This was after the Chinese military sent a total of 52 aircraft into Taiwanese air space.
In July 2021, Chinese state media published their "three-stage" plan for an invasion of Taiwan. That plan involved ballistic missiles, fighter jet attacks, and amphibious landings on Taiwan's beaches.
Japan would perhaps join the US in defending Taiwan should the need arise, though leaders from that nation made no statement so bold as Biden's. The US Congress approved $40 billion in aid and weapons to Ukraine last week, and the Pentagon approved an additional $100 million in arms.