China said Monday that it lodged “stern representations” to the US in response to President Biden saying that the US would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.
“We are willing to do our best to strive for peaceful reunification. At the same time, we will not tolerate any activities aimed at secession,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said.
Biden made the comments on Taiwan in an interview with 60 Minutes that aired on Sunday. When asked if the US would intervene to defend Taiwan, Biden replied, “Yes, if in fact there was an unprecedented attack.” When asked if that meant US men and women would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, he answered, “Yes.”
The White House insisted that there hasn’t been a change to US policy on Taiwan, but the statement marked the fourth time that Biden has pledged to defend the island, and Sunday’s comments on the issue were more explicit than previous ones.
Biden’s pledge to defend Taiwan goes against the long-standing US policy of strategic ambiguity for the island. Under the policy, the US does not officially say one way or the other if it would intervene to defend Taiwan. This is meant to deter either side from changing the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. Mao warned the US not to send the “wrong signals” to what China calls Taiwan’s “independence forces.”
The policy of strategic ambiguity for Taiwan was established after Washington severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979 to normalize with Beijing.
In recent years, US support for Taiwan has changed as Washington now views the island as a way to counter Beijing rather than as a problem in US-China relations. Biden’s comment came after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee moved forward a piece of legislation that would give Taiwan $6.5 billion in military aid and radically alter US policy toward the island.