President Joe Biden says US forces would defend Taiwan if China tries to invade the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing as part of its territory, adding to displays of official American support for the island's democracy. Asked during an interview broadcast on Sunday on CBS News's “60 Minutes” program whether “US forces, US men and women, would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion,” Biden said, “Yes.”
CBS News reported the White House said after the interview that US policy hasn't changed. That policy says Washington wants to see Taiwan's status resolved peacefully but doesn't say whether US forces might be sent in response to a Chinese attack. Biden's comments come amid rising tension over Taiwan following efforts by Chinese President Xi Jinping's government to intimidate the island by firing missiles into the sea and flying fighter jets nearby and visits to Taipei by political figures including US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Washington is obligated by federal law to see that Taiwan has the means to defend itself but doesn't say whether US forces would be sent. The United States has no formal relations with the island but maintains informal diplomatic ties.
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. Beijing criticizes official foreign contact with Taiwan's elected government as an encouragement to make its de facto independence permanent, a step the mainland says would lead to war.
Washington says it doesn't support formal independence for Taiwan, a stance Biden repeated in the interview broadcast Sunday. “Taiwan makes their own judgments about their independence,” the president said. “We're not encouraging their being independent.” In May, Biden said “yes” when asked at a news conference in Tokyo whether he was willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if China invaded.