National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday that President Joe Biden was answering a “hypothetical question” when the president told 60 Minutes that he would come to the defense of Taiwan if China attacked.
“He was asked a question, a hypothetical question in this interview,” Sullivan said at the White House press conference. “He gave a similar answer in Tokyo in May that he gave in the 60 Minutes interview,” Sullivan pointed out.
Sullivan reminded reporters that after Biden was asked about Taiwan in Tokyo, someone specifically said to him, “Did you just announce a major policy change?” and he said, “No, I haven’t, I’ve answered a hypothetical question. I haven’t announced a policy change.”
‘When the President of the United States wants to announce a policy change, he will. He hasn’t, Sullivan said.
During an episode of 60 Minutes that aired Sunday, Biden answered ‘yes’ when asked if ‘American forces, American men and women, would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.’
“Yes, if there was indeed an unprecedented attack,” Biden said.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday that President Joe Biden was answering a ‘hypothetical question’ when the president told 60 Minutes he would come to Taiwan’s defense if China attacked
President Joe Biden said during a 60 Minutes interview that aired Sunday that ‘yes,’ US forces would defend Taiwan in the event of an ‘unprecedented attack’
China considers Taiwan part of China, while Taiwan has its own democratic government – a split that came after the 1949 civil war that ended with the Communist takeover of the mainland. The US does not officially recognize Taiwan’s government, but sells Taipei weapons.
Biden’s comments further angered the Chinese, and Beijing said on Monday that the ‘American remarks’ violated longstanding US policy of not supporting Taiwan independence.
“China strongly regrets and rejects it and has made solemn complaints to the US side,” spokeswoman Mao Ning said, according to the Associated Press.
Sullivan said on Tuesday that US support for the so-called One China policy remains steadfast.
“Now as the president said in his interview with 60 Minutes, we continue to stand behind the One China policy, we continue to stand against unilateral changes to the status quo, and we continue to stand for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait ,” Sullivan said.
“The president has reiterated these fundamental commitments on every occasion he has spoken about Taiwan, including in this interview,” Sullivan said, pointing to the 60 Minutes sit-down. ‘Where he specifically and emphatically and unequivocally reinforced and reiterated the One China policy.’
At the briefing, Sullivan was asked in a follow-up whether Biden’s comments should be considered strategic deterrence – if by responding to a hypothetical he ‘delivered an explicit message’ to Beijing.
“Well, all I’m going to say is that the president is a direct and straightforward person,” Sullivan replied. ‘He answered a hypothetical. He has answered it before in the same way. And he has also been clear that he has not, has not, changed US policy towards Taiwan.’
“He stands behind the historic U.S. policy toward Taiwan, which has existed through Democratic and Republican administrations and helped maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait for decades,” the national security adviser added.
During his visit to Tokyo in May, Biden said ‘yes’ and added ‘it’s a commitment we’ve made’ when asked by a reporter if he was willing to get involved militarily if China invaded Taiwan.
“But the idea that it can be taken by force, just taken by force, is just not appropriate,” Biden said. ‘It will shift the whole region and be another act similar to what happened in Ukraine.’
“My expectation is that it will not happen, it will not be attempted,” the president added.
The White House was almost immediately asked to clarify Biden’s comments, and an unnamed official responded by saying “our policy has not changed.”
‘He reiterated our One China policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself, the official said.
Recently, however, China has stepped up military exercises near Taiwan around House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s decision to visit the self-governing island in August.
She was the highest-ranking US official to visit since House Speaker Newt Gingrich made the trip in 1997.
Since Pelosi’s trip, a number of US lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, have visited Taiwan to show their support.