The Chinese government on Monday criticized President Joe Biden’s statement that US forces would defend Taiwan if Beijing tried to invade as a violation of US commitments on the self-governing island, but gave no indication of possible retaliation.
Biden said ‘yes’ when asked during an interview on CBS News’ ’60 Minutes’ on Sunday whether ‘US forces, American men and women, would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion’ .
The comment adds to official US displays of support for island democracy in the face of growing shows of force from the mainland’s ruling Communist Party, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory.
Without quoting Biden by name, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the ‘American remarks’ violate Washington’s pledge not to support formal independence for Taiwan, a step Beijing says would lead to war .
“China deplores and firmly rejects it and has filed solemn complaints with the US side,” spokeswoman Mao Ning said.
CBS News reported that the White House said after the interview that US policy had not changed. This policy indicates that Washington wants to see Taiwan’s status resolved peacefully, but does not say whether US forces could be sent in response to a Chinese attack.
Tensions are mounting following efforts by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government to intimidate Taiwan by firing missiles into the nearby sea and flying fighter jets to the island after visits to Taipei by political figures including US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Mao called on Washington to “handle Taiwan-related issues cautiously” and “not to send the wrong signals” to supporters of Taiwan independence “to avoid further damage to China-US relations as well as to the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait”.
Taiwan and China separated in 1949 after a civil war that ended with the Communist Party ruling the mainland. The two governments say they are one country but argue over who has the right to be the national leader.
“We will do our utmost to fight for the prospect of peaceful reunification with utmost sincerity, while we will not tolerate any activity aimed at dividing China and reserve the possibility of taking all necessary measures,” Mao said. .
Taiwan’s foreign ministry expressed “sincere gratitude” to Biden for “upholding the US government’s unwavering promise of security in Taiwan.”
Taiwan will “resist authoritarian expansion and aggression” and “deepen the close security partnership” with Washington and other “like-minded” governments to safeguard regional stability, the statement said.
Washington is obligated by federal law to ensure Taiwan has the means to defend itself but does not say whether US forces would be sent. The United States has no formal relations with the island but maintains informal diplomatic relations.
The Communist Party has persuaded most foreign governments to transfer official recognition to Beijing, although many maintain informal ties and have extensive trade and investment relations with Taiwan. The island’s official diplomatic partners are mostly small, poor countries in Africa and Latin America.
“Taiwan is an inalienable part of China,” Mao said. “The government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legal government representing the whole of China.”
Washington says it does not support formal independence for Taiwan, a position repeated by Biden in the interview broadcast Sunday.
“Taiwan makes its own judgments about its independence,” the president said. “We do not encourage their independence.”
In May, Biden said “yes” when asked at a press conference in Tokyo if he was prepared to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if China invaded.
Associated Press video producer Liu Zheng in Beijing and journalist Johnson Lai in Taipei, Taiwan, contributed to this report.