A senior official from the Biden administration said US policy on Taiwan had not changed since the president Joe Biden seemed to suggest that the United States would defend the island if attacked, a departure from a long-standing U.S. position of “strategic ambiguity.”
In an interview broadcast by ABC News on Thursday, Biden was asked about the effects of the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan and answers in Chinese media that told Taiwan this showed that Washington could not be trusted to come to defense.
Biden replied that Taiwan, South Korea and NATO were fundamentally different situations from Afghanistan and seemed to lump Taiwan together with countries to which Washington has explicit defense obligations.
“They are … units we have made agreements with, based on not a civil war they have on that island or in South Korea, but on an agreement where they have a unity government that is actually trying to keep evil from doing evil. things against them, ”the president said.
“We have committed, kept all commitments. We were very much committed to Article 5 that if anyone actually wanted to invade or act against our NATO ally, we would respond. Same with Japan, same with South Korea, same with Taiwan. It’s not even comparable to talk about it. ”
A senior official from the Biden administration said later Thursday that the United States’ “policy regarding Taiwan has not changed,” and analysts said it appeared Biden had spoken incorrectly.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington and Taiwan’s Representative Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Washington is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, but it has long pursued a policy of “strategic ambiguity” as to whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
Article 5 is a NATO agreement that states that an attack on a member of the Alliance is considered an attack on all.
South Korea is also a US treaty allied with a mutual defense agreement, but US relations with Taiwan, claimed by China, have been unofficial since Washington shifted diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979.
Some prominent American academics and others have argued that Washington should give Taiwan a more explicit security guarantee in light of increasing military pressure from Beijing. But Biden’s Indo – Pacific police coordinator, Kurt Campbell, has apparently denied this, saying in May that there were “significant disadvantages” to such an approach.
Bonnie Glaser, a Taiwanese expert at the German Marshall Fund in the United States, called Biden’s apparent mischaracterization “unfortunate.”
“The United States had an Article 5 obligation to Taiwan from 1954 to 1979. The Biden administration is not considering returning to that obligation, as stated in public statements by Kurt Campbell.”
Earlier this week, Republican Senator John Cornyn mistakenly tweeted that the United States has 30,000 troops in Taiwan, which has not been the case since before 1979.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, was asked about Taiwan this week, calling it a “fundamentally different issue in a different context” for Afghanistan.
“We believe our commitment to Taiwan … remains as strong as it has ever been,” he said without specifying what the commitment was.
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