Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said Thursday that China should know the US is willing to go to war over Taiwan, pointing to comments made by President Biden that he would defend the island in the event of a Chinese attack.
Haines made the remarks at a House Intelligence Committee hearing when asked by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) if she thinks the US should change its policy of “strategic ambiguity” over the question of defending Taiwan. “I think it is clear to the Chinese what our position is, based on the president’s comments,” she said.
In September 2022, President Biden was asked if American men and women would be deployed to Taiwan if China attacked, and he replied, “Yes.” Unlike previous times he made the commitment, the White House did not walk it back. Kurt Campbell, Biden’s top Asia official on the National Security Council, said at the time that the president’s comments “speak for themselves.”
For decades, the US policy was not to say one way or another if it would come to Taiwan’s defense. The policy served two purposes: China wouldn’t be sure what the cost of an invasion would be, and Taiwan wouldn’t be emboldened to take any action that would provoke a Chinese attack.
Biden administration officials insist there hasn’t been an official change in US policy on the issue but have made clear, unlike in Ukraine, Biden would directly intervene with troops in a Taiwan conflict to fight China despite the risk of nuclear war.
Haines also said at the hearing that “it’s not our assessment that China wants to go to war” over Taiwan. Beijing’s official stance is that it seeks “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan but doesn’t rule out the use of force.
China has been increasing military pressure on Taiwan in direct response to the US stepping up support for the island. Chinese officials have warned if the US doesn’t change its policies in the region, it will lead to “conflict and confrontation.”