By Paul D. Shinkman
China on Monday expressed outrage at President Joe Biden’s apparent break from America’s prior policy of “strategic ambiguity” regarding Taiwan, blasting his assertion that the U.S. would militarily defend the island nation if Beijing invaded.
No country should underestimate China’s “firm resolve, staunch will and strong ability” to protect its sovereign and territorial interests, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters on Monday in response to Biden’s comments.
“On issues that bear on China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and other core interests, no one shall expect China to make any compromise or trade-offs,” Wang said.
Other Chinese Communist Party insiders offered more colorful threats to Biden’s remarks.
“PLA’s firepower in the Taiwan Straits has long surpassed that of US military,” Hu Xijin, who until last year oversaw China’s Global Times news outlet – considered aligned with the views of the ruling party – wrote on Twitter on Monday, using an abbreviation for the People’s Liberation Army. “Biden says US military would defend Taiwan – does Biden wish to bring those soldiers back in coffins or let them sink into the Taiwan Straits to feed the fish? So, let’s cherish peace together.”
Their comments came moments after Biden in high-profile remarks in Japan shocked observers with the assertion that the U.S. would provide military support to Taiwan in the case of an invasion.
Speaking at a press conference in Japan during his tour of Asia, a reporter asked Biden, “You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons,” adding, “Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”
“Yes,” the president responded.
“You are?” the reporter asked in reply. Biden responded again: “That’s the commitment we made.”
His surprise announcement overshadowed what would have been major diplomatic news that the U.S. has secured agreements from 12 countries to join the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which bolsters trade in the region.
U.S. policy toward the island nation – diplomatically recognized only by a dozen or so minor countries – is governed by a fragile collection of joint communiques and diplomatic documents and in some areas is purposefully vague.
U.S. war planners had previously left the question of whether the U.S. would decisively defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion unanswered as a deterrent against Beijing.
Taiwan has emerged as one of, if not the, central problems facing the U.S. military and diplomatic corps following China’s steady rise in recent months and increased crackdown on territory it considers its own, including Hong Kong. Pentagon planners have begun referring to the island nation as “fortress Taiwan” in reference, in part, to U.S. efforts to build up its defenses against its behemoth neighbor.