Will America defend Taiwan if China launches a war on it?

US President Joe Biden confirmed that the United States would defend Taiwan militarily if China launched an attack on it, at a time when China urged the United States to avoid sending the wrong signals to supporters of Taiwan independence.

During an election interview organized by CNN, Biden said in response to a question whether the United States was ready to militarily defend Taiwan if the island was attacked by China, “Yes. We have an obligation to do so.”

“They say Biden wants to fight a new cold war with China. No, I don’t want that… I just want China to understand that we won’t back down and we won’t change any of our views.”

Biden also responded in the affirmative to a question whether the United States would be able to respond to the development of military programs in China, stressing that China, Russia and the rest of the world know that we have the most powerful military capacity in the world.

Following Joe Biden’s remarks, the White House assured reporters that US policy toward Taiwan had not changed. But he expressed his concern about the possibility that countries competing with the United States might engage in activities in which they might make a grave mistake.

In turn, Taiwanese presidential spokesman Xavier Chang welcomed Biden’s comments, saying that America has shown “unwavering” support for Taiwan since Biden took office last January.

The US president’s statement contrasts with the long-standing US policy of “strategic ambiguity”, under which Washington helps Taiwan build and strengthen its defenses without explicitly pledging to provide its assistance in the event of an attack.

During an interview this summer on ABC, Biden made a similar promise, speaking of a “sacred commitment” to defend NATO allies in Canada and Europe, as well as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

The Biden administration faces mounting calls for a clarification of the US commitment to Taiwan’s defense, while Chinese President Xi Jinping steps up diplomatic and military pressure against Taiwan.

Although the United States and China, the two nuclear powers and the world’s primary economic powers, are fighting a cold war in a number of contentious issues between them, their dispute over Taiwan is the only issue that is likely to provoke an armed confrontation between them.

Last March, the commander of US forces in the Indo-Pacific region, Admiral Philip Davidson, warned that China could invade Taiwan within 6 years to achieve its stated goal of replacing the United States as the largest military power in the region.

Taiwan, with a population of about 23 million, has been run for 75 years by a regime that sought refuge on the island after the Communists took control of mainland China during the Chinese Civil War.

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979 to recognize Beijing as the official and sole representative of China, but Washington remains Taiwan’s most powerful ally and first supplier of arms. In fact, the US administration is obligated by Congress to sell the island weapons to enable it to defend itself.

Beijing considers Taiwan an inalienable part of Chinese territory, stressing that it will recover the island sooner or later, and by force if necessary.

(Source: Asia Middle East Forum + agencies)