What to Know in Washington: Biden Makes Taiwan Policy Explicit

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Three times as president, Joe Biden has said the US would defend Taiwan if China invades the island, and each time his staff argued he wasn’t changing longstanding US policy to keep Beijing guessing about US intentions. His fourth time makes that much harder to do.

In comments to “60 Minutes” on Sunday, Biden left no doubt where he stood, saying the US would commit military forces in the event of an “unprecedented attack” by China. Pressed if that would involve US men and women — unlike in Ukraine, where Biden has ruled out sending American forces — he said “yes.”

Source: Bloomberg

A spokeswoman again insisted that policy toward the island hadn’t changed. But with the US stance toward China hardening more broadly, it was difficult to see Biden’s comments as anything other than a refutation of decades of so-called “strategic ambiguity” in which the US declined to make its intentions clear.

The consequences of such a policy would be significant, raising the question yet again of whether Biden sought to chart a new strategy or was simply expressing his own beliefs. Even more jarring was that Biden went further. He said decisions about independence are up to Taiwan. Historically, US policy has been not to support Taiwanese independence.

Knowing they have US military backing, Taiwan’s leaders could move closer to independence — an explicit red line for Beijing to invade. Countries in the region will likely bridle, wary of the possibility of a war on their doorstep. And US allies like Japan or South Korea will almost certainly be made more uneasy knowing that US bases on their soil would be involved in any conflict — a fact that risks pulling them into a war as well. Read more from Jennifer Jacobs, Jenny Leonard and Iain Marlow.

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  • At 7:30 p.m., Biden is scheduled to participate in a Democratic National Committee reception in New York City.
  • At noon, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold a press briefing with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

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To contact the reporters on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com; Michaela Ross in Washington at mross@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com

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