Austin Swats Down Biden’s Taiwan Defense Claims, Says US Policy ‘Has Not Changed’

© AP Photo / Alex BrandonIn this Aug. 18, 2021, photo, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin pauses while speaking during a media briefing at the Pentagon in Washington.
In this Aug. 18, 2021, photo, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin pauses while speaking during a media briefing at the Pentagon in Washington. - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.05.2022
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Last October, US President Joe Biden was forced to walk back a claim that “we have a commitment” to defend Taiwan in the event of an attack by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Since 1979, the US has kept “strategic ambiguity” about whether it would intervene militarily to prevent the autonomous island from being ruled by Beijing.
After Biden once again claimed on Monday that coming to Taiwan’s defense was “the commitment we made,'' the administration is rushing to unring the bell.

“As the president said, our One China policy has not changed,'' US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday. “He reiterated that policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also highlighted our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to help provide Taiwan [with] the means to defend itself. So, again, our policy is not changed."

The US cut its relations with Taiwan, formally called the Republic of China (ROC), in 1979, when it switched its recognition of the legitimate Chinese government to the PRC in Beijing. Through the Taiwan Relations Act, the US has maintained informal support for Taipei, selling it weapons and giving it diplomatic cover on the international stage. Beijing has cautioned the US against this practice, noting that the US has formally agreed with China’s policy that there is but one China, of which Taiwan is a rebellious province.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin expressed Beijing’s “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to the remarks by the US side” in his own comments to reporters on Monday.
“The Taiwan question is purely China’s internal affair that brooks no foreign interference. On issues concerning China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and other core interests, China has no room for compromise. No one should underestimate the strong resolve, determination and capability of the Chinese people in safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added.
Biden made the claim when speaking in Tokyo on Monday during a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. However, it wasn’t the first time he has made such a slip-up: back in October 2021, Biden said “we have a commitment” to defend Taiwan when asked at a town hall forum.
A few days later, following Chinese outrage, Biden was forced to state that "We’re not going to change our policy at all. They have to decide - they, Taiwan, not us - and we are not encouraging independence. We are encouraging that they do exactly what the Taiwan Act requires."

Invasion Paranoia

Although tensions with China have steadily increased in recent years, thanks to the US adopting a policy of “great power competition” with Russia and China, they have become even more tense since Russia launched its special operation in Ukraine in February. Western leaders and analysts have been insistent that China is either drawing lessons from Ukraine on how to launch an invasion of Taiwan, or actually planning on doing so during the Russian operation.
At the same time, US officials have been pressuring Taiwan to buy more weapons for an asymmetric defense of the island. Biden’s visit to Tokyo is part of a tour across East Asia, meeting with the leaders of nations with which the US has formed a bloc against China, such as South Korea, India and Australia. Kishida made a similar tour earlier this month, penning defense deals across Southeast Asia before traveling to Europe to sign a new deal with the UK.
Ironically, Biden’s foreign policy has found a sharp critic in former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who has long supported Democratic leaders. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Monday, the elder statesman said the best situation for Eastern Europe was if Ukraine became a neutral state as Russia has demanded, and that Biden shouldn’t focus so heavily on Taiwan in his China policy.
“The United States should not by subterfuge or by a gradual process develop something of a ‘two-China’ solution, but that China will continue to exercise the patience that has been exercised up until now,” Kissinger noted. “A direct confrontation should be avoided and Taiwan cannot be the core of the negotiations because it is between China and the United States.”
In July 1971, Kissinger played a key role in orchestrating the opening of US-PRC relations when he undertook a secret mission to China, codenamed “Operation Marco Polo,” to meet with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. Their meeting laid the groundwork for US President Richard Nixon to publicly visit China the following year.
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