In Tokyo Biden says he is ready to use force

In Tokyo, Biden says he is ready to use force to defend Taiwan

  • A White House official says no policy change
  • China says US shouldn’t defend Taiwan’s independence
  • US wants to tighten policy without provoking Beijing – analyst
  • Biden in Japan for the presidency’s first trip to Asia

TOKYO, May 23 – U.S. President Joe Biden said Monday he was ready to use force to defend Taiwan, in a series of critical comments on China he made in Tokyo that an adviser said would not change the U.S -Politics represent self-governing island.

Biden’s comment, delivered during his first visit to Japan since taking office and in front of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, appeared to be a departure from existing US policy of so-called strategic ambiguity towards Taiwan.

China regards the democratic island as its territory, part of “one China,” and says it is the most sensitive and important issue in its relations with the United States.

When a reporter asked Biden during a joint press conference with the Japanese leader whether the United States would defend Taiwan in the event of an attack, the president replied, “Yes.”

“That’s the commitment we made,” he said.

“We agree to a one China policy. We signed them and made all the intended arrangements. But the idea that it can be taken by force, only by force, is just not fair.”

He added that it was his expectation that such an event would not happen or be attempted.

Following Biden’s comments, a White House official said there was no change in policy toward Taiwan. China’s foreign ministry said the United States should not defend Taiwan’s independence.

The president’s national security advisers shifted in their seats and appeared to study Biden closely as he responded to the question about Taiwan. Several looked down as he made what appeared to be an unequivocal commitment to defending Taiwan.

Biden made similar comments on Taiwan’s defense in October. At the time, a White House spokesman said Biden was not announcing a change in US policy, and one analyst called the comment a “blip.”

Despite the White House’s insistence that Monday’s comments do not represent a change in US policy, Grant Newsham, a retired US Marine Corps colonel and now a research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, said the meaning was clear.

“That statement deserves to be taken seriously,” Newsham said. “It is a clear statement that the US will not stand by and see China attack Taiwan.”

U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attend a press conference at Akasaka Guest House on May 23, 2022 in Tokyo, Japan. Nicolas Datiche/Pool via REUTERS

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While Washington is legally required to provide Taiwan with means of self-defense, it has long maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity” about whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.


Biden continued to make harsh comments about China’s increasingly assertive stance in the region, saying he hopes Russian President Vladimir Putin would pay a price for his invasion of Ukraine, in part to show China what he faces if he does in Taiwan would invade.

“They are trying to tighten their policies without necessarily provoking China,” said James Brown, associate professor at Temple University Japan.

Biden’s comments are also likely to overshadow the centerpiece of his Japan visit, the launch of an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a comprehensive plan that provides an economic pillar for US engagement in Asia. Continue reading

His trip includes meetings with the leaders of Japan, India and Australia in the “Quad” group of countries.

Kishida stressed Tokyo’s willingness to take a more robust defensive stance, which the United States has long welcomed.

Kishida said he told Biden that Japan will consider various options to strengthen its defense capabilities, including the ability to retaliate, signaling a possible shift in Japan’s defense policy.

This includes a “significant increase” in the defense budget, Kishida said.

Japan’s role in any conflict over Taiwan would be to facilitate a US operation and help the United States defend its assets, said Yoji Koda, a retired Maritime Self Defense Force admiral and former fleet commander.

“Japan’s role in this would be significant. Japan is a pioneer of this security deterrent,” he said.

Kishida said he had Biden’s support for Japan’s admission as a permanent member of the UN Security Council amid growing calls for reform of the council. China and Russia are permanent members.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Sakura Murakami, Chang-Ran Kim, Nobuhiro Kubo, Daniel Leussink, Kantaro Komiya, Ju-min Park and Tim Kelly; writing by Elaine Lies and David Dolan; Edited by Robert Birsel