Taiwanese officials seeking clarification on ambiguous comments by US President Joe Biden reported on Wednesday that Washington’s commitment to the autonomous island was “rock solid.”
“Facing the Chinese government’s military, diplomatic and economic threats, Taiwan and the United States have always maintained close and smooth communication channels,” the de facto foreign ministry of Taiwan said on Wednesday.
Separately, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said from Paris on Wednesday that the US’ commitment to Taiwan was rock solid and that the US is concerned about what he described as provocative military activity in the region by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), likely referring to recent flights by large numbers of Chinese aircraft into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. The ADIZ is an informal line without standing in international law, inside of which countries who declare them to exist begin tracking and requesting aircraft information.
The Taiwanese government had sought clarification about a brief comment Biden made Tuesday evening outside the White House
“China has…I’ve spoken with Xi about Taiwan. We agree, we will abide by the Taiwan agreement,” Biden told reporters. “That’s where we are and I made it clear that I don’t think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement.”
As Sputnik reported, there is no such agreement by that name, although the US and PRC have come to several agreements throughout the 1970s and 1980s about the US relationship with the Republic of China (ROC), the formal name for the government in Taipei. However, none of those agreements bode well for the US’ position, since in them Washington agreed to end its support for Taiwan.
“The comments sent Taiwanese officials in search of explanations for what signal Biden was sending at a time of high tensions between Taipei and Beijing,” Reuters noted. “One Taiwanese official messaged a Reuters reporter to ask what Biden meant.”
In a phone call last month with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Biden reportedly agreed not to change the One-China Policy, a principle underpinning US relations with the PRC. Beijing considers Taiwan to be a province in rebellion, and will not have relations with countries that continue to recognize the ROC as the legitimate Chinese government, since it was defeated on the mainland in 1949 by communist forces after years of civil war.
Under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, the US’ informal relations with Taiwan grew closer, as his rise to power coincided with a new government in Taipei under Tsai Ing-wen, who favors independence. Weapons sales, military drills, and visits by high-profile figures helped rile Chinese fury, as Beijing regards US actions as meddling in China’s internal affairs. Beijing has said that if Taiwan declares independence, there will be war.
Speaking before the Taiwanese legislature on Wednesday, defense minister Chiu Kuo-cheng referred to the situation as the “most serious” Taiwan has faced in more than 40 years, although Reuters suggested his description was hyperbolic when past events, such as the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis, were taken into context.
Chiu claimed the PRC will be able to mount a “full scale” invasion of the island, which sits 80 miles off its eastern coast, by 2025.
“By 2025, China will bring the cost and attrition to its lowest,” Chiu said. “It has the capacity now, but it will not start a war easily, having to take many other things into consideration.”
Taiwanese government and media have claimed in the past that Chinese forces were preparing to mount amphibious assaults on Taiwan or islands it controls, such as Pratas in the South China Sea, but those fears have never materialized.
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