(Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said on Monday he would be willing to use force to defend Taiwan, capping a series of critical comments about China while in Asia that an aide said represented no change in U.S. policy toward the self-ruled island.
While the United States is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, it has long followed a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
China considers the self-ruled island an inalienable part of its territory and says Taiwan is the most sensitive and important issue in its relationship with Washington.
Following is a timeline of comments by Biden and others on U.S. policy on Taiwan.
May 4, 2021 – The U.S. policy coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, Kurt Campbell, expressed his opposition to calls for the United States to make a clear statement of its willingness to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack, saying there were “significant downsides” to “strategic clarity”.
Aug. 19 – Biden, in an interview aired by ABC News, appeared to lump Taiwan together with countries with which Washington has explicit defense commitments, such as South Korea, suggesting a deviation from the position of “strategic ambiguity”.
A Biden administration official said U.S. policy on Taiwan had not changed, and analysts said Biden appeared to have misspoken.
Oct. 21 – Biden said at a CNN town hall that the United States would come to Taiwan’s defense and had a commitment to defend the island.
A White House spokesperson said Biden was not announcing any change in U.S. policy. Bonnie Glaser, a Taiwan expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, called Biden’s remark a “gaffe” and said it was “patently not true” that the United States had a commitment to defend Taiwan.
Oct. 27 – Biden told a summit of East Asian leaders that the United States was deeply concerned by China’s “coercive” action across the Taiwan Strait and reiterated that the United States had a “rock-solid” commitment to the island.
Nov. 3 – The chairman of the influential House Intelligence Committee, Democrat Adam Schiff, urged the Biden administration to be less ambiguous about what he called a U.S. obligation to defend Taiwan from attack by China.
Nov. 10 – The United States and its allies would take unspecified “action” if China were to use force to alter the status quo over Taiwan, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
Jan. 28, 2022 – China and the United States could end up in a military conflict if the United States encouraged Taiwan’s independence, China’s ambassador to the United States said in a U.S. radio interview.
(Editing by Robert Birsel and Hugh Lawson)