Mr. Biden had ignored the practiced inaccuracy of his predecessors regarding China and Taiwan during his presidency. Last August, when reassuring allies after his decision to leave the government of Afghanistan, he pledged that “we would respond” if there was an attack on a fellow NATO member, adding: “same with Japan, same with South Korea, same with Taiwan.”
However, Taiwan never received the same US security guarantees as Japan, South Korea or America’s NATO allies, which is why the comment was considered important. Two months later, Mr. Biden asked at a televised town hall whether the United States would protect Taiwan from attacks. “Yes, we have a commitment to do that,” he said. That also sparked a frantic battle from the White House to push back his comment by insisting he didn’t change long-standing policy.
The president has even made a habit of ignoring the warnings his staff would prefer to take when confronting foreign opponents. In March, Mr. Biden went further than his administration had gone by calling Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin a war criminal in response to a reporter’s question. Barely a week later, he caused a stir when, at the end of a speech in Poland, he issued a line declaring that Mr Putin “cannot remain in power”.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been closely watched in Asia for the lessons it could hold for China’s long-standing ambition to recapture Taiwan. If Russia had succeeded in conquering Ukraine, which was once part of its empire, some feared it would set a dangerous precedent. Still, Russia’s abnormal failure to take over the entire country and unified Western response may serve as a red flag for military adventurism.
China, which has considered Taiwan one of its provinces for more than seven decades, sent 14 planes to the island’s air defense zone last week on the day Mr Biden arrived in Asia, according to Taiwan’s defense ministry. of the increasing number of raids in the past year. Taiwan deployed fighter jets in response, but no direct conflict was reported.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry welcomed Mr. Biden’s latest comments on Monday and expressed “gratitude” to the president for affirming America’s “firm commitment to Taiwan”. In a statement, the ministry said Taiwan would “continue to improve its self-defense capabilities and deepen cooperation with the United States and Japan and other like-minded countries”.
Beijing, on the other hand, issued a ritual rejection of the president’s comments. “On issues related to China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and other core interests, China has no room for compromise,” Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters, adding that none of China’s determination to defend itself may underestimate.