Beijing Blasts Biden Over Pledge to ‘Defend Taiwan’, Urges US to ‘Be Cautious With Words, Actions’

Friday, 22 October, 2021 - 23:13

Taiwan split off from mainland China in 1949 in the aftermath of the Chinese Civil War. Beijing considers the island an integral part of China, and has pledged to pursue its eventual peaceful reunification with the People’s Republic.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin has responded to US President Joe Biden’s pledge to ‘defend Taiwan’, urging the US leader not to underestimate China’s commitment to its claims to the island.

“When it comes to issues related to China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and other core interests, there is no room for China to compromise or make concessions, and no one should underestimate the strong determination, firm will and strong ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Wang said in a briefing Friday.

“Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory,” the spokesman stressed, adding that “the Taiwan issue is purely an internal affair of China that allows no foreign intervention.”

Wang urged the United States to “be cautious with its words and actions on the Taiwan issue, and not send any wrong signals to the separatist forces of Taiwan independence, so as not to seriously damage China-US relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

The spokesman’s comments follow President Joe Biden’s remarks at a CNN town hall Thursday night, during which he said the US had a “commitment” to defend the island in the event of a Chinese invasion.

“We are – militarily, China, Russia, and the rest of the world knows we have the most powerful military in the history of the world. Don’t worry about whether we’re going to – they’re going to be more powerful. What you do have to worry about is whether or not they’re going to engage in activities that will put them in a position where there – they may make a serious mistake,” Biden said.

Asked point blank if the US would come to Taiwan’s defence in the event of a Chinese attack, Biden said “Yes, we have a commitment to do that.”

The president also insisted that he doesn’t want to have a Cold War with the PRC, but only “to make China understand that we are not going to step back.”

Taiwan Tensions

A White House spokesperson walked back Biden’s remarks, telling reporters that America’s defence posture vis-à-vis Taiwan was “guided by the Taiwan Relations Act,” and that Washington “will uphold our commitments under the Act by supporting Taiwan’s self-defence and opposing “any unilateral changes to the status quo.”

Formally, the US is committed to a policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’ regarding Taiwan, which allows Washington to sell the island arms and assist it in building up its defences, but not making any explicit commitments to defend it against foreign attack.

Earlier Friday, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to the One China Policy – under which America recognizes the People’s Republic as the one true China, but added the Biden administration would “continue to help Taiwan with resources and capabilities it needs to defend itself.” Austin declined to answer a question on how the US would respond in the event of a Chinese attack against the island, saying he wouldn’t “engage in hypotheticals.”

The People’s Liberation Army dramatically increased the flight of military aircraft near Taiwan earlier this month following revelations that a small number of US troops had been secretly deployed on the island for more than a year to help train Taiwan’s military.

In an angry denunciation of the deployment, China’s outward-facing Global Times newspaper dared America to deploy ten times more troops on Taiwan to see “whether the PLA will launch a targeted air strike to eliminate those US invaders.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, emphasized earlier this month that while reunification would “definitely” take place,” it would be “peaceful” in nature.

Tensions between the US and China over Taiwan grew under Donald Trump, and began to escalate dramatically immediately after Biden’s inauguration after Taipei’s de-facto ambassador to Washington was invited to the swearing in ceremony. Biden’s repeated mention of Taiwan, fresh arms sales, regular US ‘freedom of navigation’ deployments through the Taiwan Strait, and reports that Washington could rename Taiwan’s diplomatic mission or invite island leaders to an upcoming “democracy summit,” have helped to sour relations further.

Taiwan’s current government, led by President Tsai INg-wen and the liberal left Democratic Progressive Party, has helped to keep tensions high, sparking Beijing’s wrath with its staunchly pro-independence stance and attempts to woo Washington to ramp up its commitments. By contrast, the opposition nationalist Kuomintang Party, which helped to forge economic relations and informal diplomatic ties with Beijing in the 1980s and 1990s, has generally favoured reunification with the mainland under the ‘One Country, Two Systems' model applied to Hong Kong after its 1997 handover to Chinese jurisdiction by Britain.

Taiwan was split from the mainland after the defeat of the nationalists by the communists in the Chinese Civil War in 1949, after which the Kuomintang fled to the island.