Watch: Pentagon Chief Pressed To Endorse Biden's Vow To Defend Taiwan

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Oct 03, 2022 - 09:20 PM

Two weeks ago President Joe Biden vowed in a "60 Minutes" interview that the United States would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese military invasion. Biden answered "yes" when asked whether American forces would defend the self-ruled island if it came under Chinese attack. "Yes, if, in fact, there was an unprecedented attack," he had said in a sit-down with CBS' Scott Pelley.

It wasn't the first time Biden made this pledge in recent months, which once again sent the White House scrambling to clarify his words as the statements went far beyond the official Washington doctrine of "strategic ambiguity". 

On Sunday Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was the latest top official to be pressed on the question of American military intervention as Taiwan is under Chinese threat, particularly since Nancy Pelosi's August visit. Noticeably, Austin refused to directly endorse Biden's prior statement.

AP file image

The exchange happened on CNN’s "Fareed Zakaria GPS" wherein the Pentagon chief said, "In accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, we’re committed to helping Taiwan develop the capability to defend itself. And that work has gone on over time and will continue into the future."

That's when Zakaria called out the recent Biden statements, highlighting the president "went beyond" official US policy regarding longtime status quo policies, which also includes the One China policy. As Politico captured of Austin's statements

Zakaria noted that Biden went beyond what has been stated U.S. policy. He asked Austin: "Is the American military prepared to do that?"

"The American military is always prepared to protect our interests, and live up to our commitments," Austin said.

He added: "I think the president was clear in providing his answers as he responded to a hypothetical question. But, again, we continue to work to make sure that we have the right capabilities in the right places to ensure that we help our allies maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific."

Thus Austin essentially dodged the question, simply leaving it a vague "protect our interests" response, which is actually more in line with the standing policy. "We don't want to see a unilateral change to the status quo," Austin explained of potential Chinese aggression. But he did say the US is committed to helping Taiwan defend itself based on the Taiwan Relations Act. 

Watch Zakaria stress that what Biden presented was a different policy altogether, pressing Austin to weigh in on the discrepancy...

Some pundits have suggested that Biden's rhetoric is calculated to instill fear in Beijing and act as a 'maximalist' warning, in order to prevent a scenario akin to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Hawks have argued that Biden should have drawn an earlier and clearer red line with Moscow - and similarly they argue the White House must threaten military response with the China-Taiwan standoff, in order to prevent a feared future invasion.