‘No change in our policy' — Psaki walks back Biden comments on Taiwan

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‘No change in our policy’ — Psaki walks back Biden comments on Taiwan
© Getty Images

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House on October 19, 2021 in Washington, DC

– Getty Images

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Friday appeared to walk back comments made by President Joe Biden the previous evening, in which he said the US would protect Taiwan if the island were to come under attack by the People’s Republic of China.

On Thursday, Mr Biden was speaking at a CNN television town hall in Baltimore, Maryland when a participant asked him if he could “vow to protect Taiwan”.

Mr Biden replied: “Yes”.

When moderator Anderson Cooper asked him if he was saying that the US would come to Taiwan’s defence if attack, Mr Biden again said “yes” and added: “We have a commitment to do that”.

Since 1972, the United States’ posture towards Taiwan has been based on a joint communiqué issued by the US and People’s Republic of China governments during then-President Richard Nixon’s visit to the PRC, as well as two others issued in 1979 and 1982.

While the US has acknowledged that “Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China,” Washington has never explicitly acknowledged that Taiwan is a sovereign state or recognized the legitimacy of Beijing’s claims on the island.

The US has also sold arms to Taiwan for many years, any commitment to protect the island in the event of an invasion has been implicit and ambiguous to avoid angering Beijing.

Mr Biden’s comments on Thursday would have been a significant shift in America’s posture towards the island, but Ms Psaki stressed that no such shift has taken place.

“The President was not announcing any change in our policy nor has he made a decision to change our policy,” Ms Psaki said. “Our defense relationship with Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act — some of the principles of the Taiwan Relations Act that the United States will continue to abide by…is assisting Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self defence capability”.

Ms Psaki noted that under Taiwan Relations Act, the US “would regard any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means as a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific and a grave concern to the United States”.

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