President Joe Biden issued a surprisingly blunt response when asked in a CBS "60 Minutes" interview what the US reaction would be if China decided to invade Taiwan.
Biden answered "yes" when asked whether American forces would defend the self-ruled island if it came under Chinese military invasion. "Yes, if, in fact, there was an unprecedented attack," he said in a sit-down with Scott Pelley, which aired in full Sunday night.
However, Biden was quick to reiterate that the US maintains a "One China" policy and doesn't currently support Taiwan's political independence. But he was asked again to clarify if, unlike in Ukraine, the US military would intervene directly in the event of a Chinese invasion, to which the president replied: "Yes."
This and other similar public comments saying the US would get militarily involved, which are contradictory to the longtime official stance of Washington, resulted in quick clarification from the White House:
"The President has said this before, including in Tokyo earlier this year," a White House spokesperson said in a statement to news outlets. "He also made clear then that our Taiwan policy hasn't changed. That remains true."
His staff had in May scrambled to walk back similar comments. He had said when asked if the US was ready to intervene if China attacked Taiwan: "Yes... That's the commitment we made." Of course that left reporters scratching their heads over just what "commitment" the United States had ever made in that regard.
Q: “But would U.S. forces defend the island?"— Hümeyra Pamuk (@humeyra_pamuk) September 19, 2022
Biden: “Yes, if in fact there was an unprecedented attack.”
Q: “So unlike Ukraine, to be clear, sir. U.S. forces, U.S. men and women would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion?"
Biden: “Yes.” https://t.co/ZPzyQKVCUe
China's foreign ministry was quick to slam the 60 Minutes comments, saying the US should stop sending "wrong signals" concerning Taiwan "independence":
"We are willing to do our best to strive for peaceful reunification. At the same time, we will not tolerate any activities aimed at secession," FM spokesperson Mao Ning said.
There are fears that such confusing hints at policy shift from Washington will only serve to increase PLA military pressure on Taiwan. There's currently a bill under consideration in the Senate which would drastically upgrade America's Taiwan policy, which Beijing has warned against.
On Monday, China continued its now daily and frequent buzzing of the island with military aircraft, with Taipei saying it detected 20 Chinese aircraft and five ships in its vicinity.