President Joe Biden said that the U.S. was committed to becoming militarily involved if Taiwan was invaded.
He made the comments on Monday alongside Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at a press conference in Tokyo, Japan, during his five-day Asia trip. Biden’s remarks come as there has been increased concern that China might launch an attack on Taiwan.
“You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons,” one reporter said to Biden. “Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”
“Yes,” Biden said. “That’s the commitment we made.”
It was unclear if Biden was referring to the prospect of sending only military aid or more direct action. He added that it would not be appropriate for Taiwan to be taken by force.
“We agree with the One China policy. We signed on to it, and all the attendant agreements made from there, but the idea that it can be taken by force, just taken by force, is [just not] appropriate,” Biden stated.
Soon after Biden’s comments, the White House released a statement seemingly to temper the president’s commitment, saying that “our policy has not changed.”
It added that Biden “reiterated our One China Policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself.”
Shortly after his comments, China said it had “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition” to the president’s comments saying that the U.S. should be “cautious in words and deeds on the Taiwan issue, and not send any wrong signal to pro-Taiwan independence and separatist forces.”
It is not the first time the White House has downplayed one of the president’s statements regarding Taiwan. During a CNN town hall, Biden seemed to say that the U.S. would defend Taiwan militarily if it was attacked, but the White House stated after that official U.S. policy had not changed.
As Biden arrived in Asia last week, China flew 14 fighter jets through Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. According to Stars and Stripes, Taiwan’s airspace has been encroached on more and more in the past year.
During his comments on Monday, he said that China was “flirting with danger” in relation to China’s flight maneuvers in Taiwanese airspace.
Biden spent three days in South Korea before heading to Japan as part of his first presidential trip to Asia.
During his speech in Tokyo on Monday, Biden said that the U.S. was “fully committed” to Japan’s defense and that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “undermines the foundation of the global order.”
He also laid out a new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework to increase economic cooperation between the involved countries. Biden will spend one more day in Japan on Tuesday before heading out.