TOKYO – President Joe Biden said Monday the United States would defend Taiwan militarily if Beijing invaded the self-ruled island, warning China was “flirting with danger”.
“That’s the commitment we made,” he said when asked if Washington would intervene militarily against a Chinese attempt to forcibly take control of Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province to be unified with the mainland.
“We agreed with the One China policy, we signed on to it… but the idea that (Taiwan) can be taken by force is just not appropriate.
“It will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.”
In his strongest comments to date on the issue, Biden directly linked the outcome of Western attempts to help Ukraine repel the Russian invasion with lessons likely to be learned in Beijing regarding Taiwan.
It’s “important that Putin pay a price for his barbarism in Ukraine”, Biden said. “Russia has to pay a long-term price.”
This is “not just about Ukraine”, Biden said, because China is watching to see if Western pressure on Russia slacks off.
“What signal does that send to China about the cost of… attempting to take Taiwan by force?” he asked.
Biden said China does not have “jurisdiction to take Taiwan by force”.
Signalling that he expects an invasion “will not happen”, Biden said however that this “depends… how strong the world makes clear” there would be a price for an invasion.
Meanwhile, Biden also announced Monday in Tokyo that 13 countries have joined a new, US-led Asia-Pacific trade initiative touted as a counterweight to China’s aggressive expansion in the region.
“The United States and Japan, together with 11 other nations will be launching” the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, or IPEF, Biden said at a press conference alongside Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
“This framework is a commitment to working with our close friends and partners in the region on challenges that matter most to ensuring economic competitiveness in the 21st century,” he said.
Biden was due to make a formal rollout of the framework later Monday.
He did not say what countries had already signed up to IPEF, which the White House is billing as a framework for what will ultimately become a tight-knit group of trading nations.
Unlike traditional trade blocs, there is no plan for IPEF members to negotiate tariffs and ease market access — a tool that has become increasingly unpalatable to US voters fearful of undermining homegrown manufacturing.
Instead, the programme foresees integrating partners through agreed standards in four main areas: the digital economy, supply chains, clean energy infrastructure and anti-corruption measures.
Biden has pushed to rapidly rebuild strategic military and trade alliances weakened under his predecessor Donald Trump since taking office in 2021.
And IPEF is intended to offer US allies an alternative to China’s growing commercial presence across the Asia-Pacific.
However, there is no political will in Washington for returning to a tariffs-based Asia trade deal following Trump’s 2017 withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a huge trading bloc that was revived, without US membership, in 2018 as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
China has criticised IPEF as an attempt to create a closed club. Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, rejected this, telling reporters “it is by design and definition an open platform”.
Sullivan said that Taiwan, a self-governing democracy that China claims sovereignty over, has not been brought into the initial line-up — despite being an important link in microchip supply chains.
Sullivan said nevertheless that the United States is “looking to deepen our economic partnership with Taiwan, including on high-technology issues, including on semiconductors and supply chains.”
This will happen, however, only “on a bilateral basis”.