China should abide by 'Taiwan agreement': U.S. president

10/06/2021 01:59 PM
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United States President Joe Biden. Photo courtesy of the White House
United States President Joe Biden. Photo courtesy of the White House

Washington, Oct. 5 (CNA) United States President Joe Biden has responded to China's military sorties near Taiwan for the first time since taking office, saying that China's leader Xi Jinping should stick to the "Taiwan agreement."

"I've spoken with Xi about Taiwan. We agree...we will abide by the Taiwan agreement," Biden told reporters at the White House after returning from a trip to Michigan when asked about China's military maneuvers in the South China Sea.

"That's where we are and we made it clear that I don't think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement," he said, without specifying what agreement he was referring to.

Though what Biden meant by the "Taiwan agreement" was unclear, Taiwan's Presidential Office said in a statement Wednesday in Taipei that Washington has confirmed to Taipei that its policy toward Taiwan remains unchanged.

The U.S. will maintain its commitments to Taiwan in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act and Six Assurances, Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang (張惇涵) said.

Biden's comments were made amid increasing tensions between Taiwan and China.

Since the beginning of October, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) has deployed record numbers of aircraft for military exercises near Taiwan, a move criticized by Taiwan as a provocation and an attempt at intimidation.

A total of 150 PLA warplanes have entered the southwestern part of Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the past five days, according to Ministry of National Defense (MND) data, which has been available on the MND website since September 2020.

ADIZ is an area declared by a country to allow it to identify, locate and control approaching foreign aircraft, but it is not considered by international law to be its territorial airspace.

Asked to comment, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday called on Beijing to "cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure and coercion against Taiwan" during a press briefing on Monday.

"We remain concerned by the People's Republic of China's provocative military activity near Taiwan, which is destabilizing, risks miscalculations and undermines regional peace and stability," Psaki said.

The higher number of PLA sorties near Taiwan have also worried scholars and former American officials.

"Military maneuvers on this scale could spin out of control and result in a major crisis," Ian Easton, a senior director at the Virginia-based research institute Project 2049 Institute, said in reply to CNA's request for comment via email.

"We cannot rule out the possibility that Xi Jinping is preparing his military for large-scale attacks against Taiwan," Easton said.

Large-scale bilateral exercises and high-level official talks between the U.S. and Taiwan are necessary to improve their ability to fight together and prepare for the danger in the future, he added.

H.R. McMaster, retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and former White House National Security Advisor, said at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday that the situation was dangerous because "many of our adversaries think our will is down to about zero."

He linked the Chinese sorties to that perception, which he said was only reinforced after America's pullout from Afghanistan, and said it hurt the U.S.' ability to deter Beijing because "deterrence is capability times will."

"I think we're essentially in a race, we're in a race to restore deterrent capability across the Indo-Pacific," he said. "I think the point of maximum danger is next year after the Beijing Olympics, and after the Communist Party Congress in 2022," he said.

(By Chiang Chin-yeh, Stacy Hsu and Teng Pei-ju)

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