President Joe Biden said that the US would militarily intervene to defend Taiwan if China attempted to invade — and the White House already appears to be scrambling to walk it back.
Biden made the remarks while speaking at a news conference in Tokyo on Monday as part of his diplomatic trip to Asia.
The president was asked by a reporter, “you didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”
“Yes,” Biden replied. “We agree with the One China policy. We signed onto it and all the attendant agreements made from there. But the idea that [Taiwan] can be taken by force, it’s just not appropriate. It will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.”
Q: “Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan?”
BIDEN: “Yes, that’s the commitment we made.”
Biden’s staff immediately walked back these comments. pic.twitter.com/AhPC3czPOl
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) May 23, 2022
The US does not currently have a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan.
“The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which has governed U.S. relations with the island, does not require the U.S. to step in militarily to defend Taiwan if China invades, but makes it American policy to ensure Taiwan has the resources to defend itself and to prevent any unilateral change of status in Taiwan by Beijing,” the Associated Press noted.
CNN’s John Berman noted during Monday’s episode of New Day that the US generally has a policy of “strategic ambiguity” when it comes to Taiwan — and that top Biden aides were “caught off guard” by his comments, according to a report from Mediaite.
“The comments this morning seem a little less ambiguous,” Berman said. “As to whether they were strategic, CNN has learned the president’s comments caught his top aides off guard. They are already issuing some clarifications this morning. Beijing issued a response a short time ago as well.”
The network’s White House reporter Kevin Liptak obtained a comment from the administration appearing to brush aside his remarks about military involvement, saying, “as the President said, our policy has not changed. He 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.”
“He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself.”
— Kevin Liptak (@Kevinliptakcnn) May 23, 2022
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told the Associated Press that they have a “strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition” to Biden’s comments. “China has no room for compromise or concessions on issues involving China’s core interests such as sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“China will take firm action to safeguard its sovereignty and security interests, and we will do what we say,” Wenbin added.
The situation appeared very similar to a pair of incidents in March where Biden appeared to call for regime change in Russia and appeared to announce that troops were being sent to Ukraine — only to have his comments quickly walked back by the White House.
Speaking outside the Royal Castle in Warsaw on March 26, Biden said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power.”
“For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” Biden declared at the conclusion of his speech.
“For god’s sake this man can not remain in power!”
After denying NATO enlargement has anything to do with destabilizing Russia, Biden closes his Poland address with a stentorian demand for regime change in Moscow.
Washington’s ultimate goal, made plain. pic.twitter.com/vjg6Vxs7dw
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) March 26, 2022
The White House quickly set out to correct the president, claiming that he was not, in fact, calling for regime change.
“The President’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region,” a White House official said in a statement. “He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change.”
The day before that gaffe, the White House also had to walk back Biden’s assertion that he was sending soldiers to Ukraine.
“You’re going to see when you’re there, you’re going to see women, young people standing in the middle, in the front of a damn tank saying ‘I’m not leaving,'” Biden told the troops while meeting with them in Poland.
Biden tells the 82nd Airborne they’re going to Ukraine:
“You’re going to see when you’re there, you’re going to see women, young people standing in the middle, in the front of a damn tank saying ‘I’m not leaving.'” pic.twitter.com/M2nu77yUw7
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) March 25, 2022
Shortly after making the comment, a White House spokesperson told reporter Andrew Feinberg that there has been no change in their position about sending troops to Ukraine.
UPDATE: A @WhiteHouse spokesperson tells me: “The President has been clear we are not sending U.S. troops to Ukraine and there is no change in that position.”
— Andrew Feinberg (@AndrewFeinberg) March 25, 2022
“A White House spokesperson tells me: ‘The President has been clear we are not sending U.S. troops to Ukraine and there is no change in that position,'” Feinberg tweeted.