On US President Joe Biden’s tour of Asia, an issue threatened to set off sparks in the already acrimonious relationship between Washington and Beijing. Taiwan, which China considers part of its territory and for whose unification it does not renounce the use of force. The United States is required by law to supply weapons for the self-defense of the democratically governed island, but for four decades it has avoided clarifying whether it would come to the aid of Taipei in the event of an invasion, in a policy it calls “strategic ambiguity.” Biden has pushed that button. Asked Monday by a journalist if he would defend Taiwan in the event of an attack, the White House tenant answered “yes.” “It is the commitment we have made,” he added.
“We respect the one China policy. We have signed it, her and all the agreements made from her, ”he specified. “But the idea that [Taiwán] it can be taken by force, simply by force, it is not appropriate.” Biden stressed that his expectation is that something like this would not happen or be attempted.
The expression “One China” represents -although with different interpretations- the basis of diplomatic relations between Beijing and the United States (and between Beijing and the rest of the nations). For the Asian giant, this expression is a “principle” and implies the recognition that there is only one China, and this includes Taiwan, where the nationalist troops defeated by the communist army in the civil war in 1949 took refuge. For the United States , the expression is a “political” and means that it recognizes the government in Beijing as the representative of China, but the status of Taiwan is not determined.
Later, a White House official accompanying Biden clarified that the presidential response does not mean an abandonment of “strategic ambiguity.”
It is not the first time that the Democratic president has made statements in which he is willing to provide military assistance to Taiwan in the event of an attack. Already in October he made a similar comment, which caused enormous discomfort in Beijing before White House officials clarified – as now – that there has been no change in the US position. The Taiwanese question is the most important, and most sensitive, issue in the relationship between the United States and China; Beijing warns Washington again and again against supporting the island.
Since Chinese President Xi Jinping came to power, and especially since the beginning of President Tsai Ing Wen’s term in Taipei in 2016, Beijing has increased its pressure on the island. Chinese military aircraft frequently fly over Taiwanese air defense space, and the Xi government’s rhetoric is increasingly assertive about future unification, albeit by force. At the same time, he maintains that his preference is peaceful unification, through ever-increasing economic, political and cultural relations.
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In Beijing, China has reiterated the position that it usually alleges in everything related to Taiwan: “No one should underestimate the firm determination, the firm will and capacity of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity”, declared the spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Wang Wenbin, at his Ministry’s daily press conference.