Taiwan envoy stresses self-defense after Biden comment

05/24/2022 01:09 PM
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Taiwan's top envoy to the United States Hsiao Bi-khim. CNA photo May 24, 2022

Washington, May 23 (CNA) Taiwan's top envoy to the United States refrained Monday from directly commenting on U.S. President Joe Biden's vow to defend Taiwan militarily, instead stressing that Taiwan's primary focus is on its own ability to defend itself.

Maintaining self-defense capabilities is of great importance to Taiwan, Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) said when asked to comment on Biden's latest remarks, and she called the Chinese Communist Party the biggest challenge to peace for Taiwan.

Maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait serves the interests of all stakeholders in the region and should be a collective responsibility, she said, and Taiwan's government will continue working with the U.S. and other partners on the issue.

Hsiao thanked the U.S. government for reaffirming its support for Taiwan and its commitment to the country's defense and national security, while citing U.S. officials as saying that U.S. policy toward Taiwan had not changed.

At a press conference in Tokyo on Monday, when asked "Are you willingto get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?" Biden answered, "Yes. It's a commitment we made."

Biden's response, which deviated from Washington's longstanding policy of "strategic ambiguity," sent his advisers scrambling to walk back the statement and drew criticism from Beijing.

A White House spokesperson later said U.S. policy toward Taiwan "has not changed."

The president was reiterating "our one-China policy" and "our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself," the spokesperson said.

China lodged a protest against Biden's remarks later the same day.

The U.S. should carefully handle the Taiwan issue lest it seriously damage peace in the Taiwan Strait and China-U.S. relations, Wang Wenbin (汪文斌), spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a press briefing Monday.

Meanwhile, Hsiao also commented on Taiwan's exclusion from the Indo-Pacific economic framework (IPEF), an initiative led by the U.S. to serve as a bulwark against China's growing economic and political influence in the region.

Hsiao said Taiwan would continue communicating with the U.S. to find a way for Taiwan to take part in the initiative launched Monday in Tokyo with 12 other partners, including Japan, Australia, and South Korea.

According to a statement issued by the White House, the IPEF members will be engaging in discussions to strengthen economic cooperation on the digital economy, supply chains, clean energy and infrastructure, among other areas.

(By Chiang Chin-yeh and Teng Pei-ju)

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