By John Ikani
Joe Biden has said US forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, his most explicit statement so far on the issue, something sure to anger Beijing.
Asked in a television interview with the CBS news show _60 Minutes_ whether the US military would defend the self-governed island if China invaded, Biden said it would if there “was an unprecedented attack.”
Asked to clarify further, Biden confirmed that US personnel would come to the defence of Taiwan, unlike in Ukraine, which Washington has given material support and military equipment to repel Russia without committing American troops.
On three previous occasions since mid-2021 Biden has made similar public comments suggesting that the U.S. would get involved in a conflict over Taiwan.
Some observers say the remarks contradict a long-standing preference from U.S. administrations for ambiguity on the issue of defending Taiwan, as a way to deter both China and Taiwan from taking steps that could alter the status quo.
Tension is rising following efforts by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government to intimidate Taiwan by firing missiles into the nearby sea and flying fighter jets nearby.
The tensions were heightened by visits to Taipei by political figures including U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry on Monday expressed “sincere gratitude” to Biden for “affirming the U.S. government’s rock-solid promise of security to Taiwan.”
Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war that ended with the Communist Party in control of the mainland.
The two governments say they are one country but dispute which is entitled to be the national leader.
Chinese president Xi Jinping has vowed to bring the democratically self-governing Taiwan under Beijing’s control and has not ruled out the use of force.
There was no immediate response to a request for comment from China’s embassy in Washington.
In a phone call with Biden in July, Xi warned against playing with fire over Taiwan, saying “those who play with fire will perish by it”.