THEO VAN GOGH ANALYSIS: NEXT UPCOMING WAR – Biden: U.S. Would Use Military Force to Defend Taiwan

At a news conference in Tokyo, U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States made a commitment to use military force (NYT) to defend Taiwan if it were ever attacked. The comment marks a departure from the U.S. policy of strategic ambiguity on Taiwan, in which Washington remains vague on how it would respond if China used military force to seize control of the island.

A follow-up statement from the White House specified that U.S. policy on Taiwan “has not changed.” But Biden said the U.S. obligation to defend Taiwan is “even stronger” than that for Ukraine. While Taipei welcomed Biden’s comments, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said Beijing “has no room for compromise” on its core concerns such as Taiwan. Taiwan was not included (Nikkei) in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Economic Framework unveiled today.

“Strategic ambiguity was a shrewd and effective approach for decades; now, however, it has run its course. Clarity on the U.S. commitment to Taiwan will push some American policymakers out of their comfort zones. But it is the only way to bolster deterrence, reassure allies, defend Taiwan, and protect U.S. interests,” CFR President Richard Haass and CFR Research Fellow David Sacks write for Foreign Affairs.

“In the event of a war, it would always be up to the president to decide whether to intervene or not regardless of the formal policy. We now have a clear window into Biden’s instincts on the matter and what his decision would be,” the Atlantic Council’s Matthew Kroenig tells the Financial Times.

This Backgrounder explains China-Taiwan relations and U.S. policy toward the island.