Biden's statement meant to assure Taipei, deter Beijing: Scholars
Taipei, Sept. 19 (CNA) United States President Joe Biden's latest statement that U.S. troops would help defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion is meant to reaffirm Washington's commitment to Taipei and to deter Beijing, two Taiwanese scholars said Monday.
In an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" program that aired on Sunday evening in the U.S., Biden told host Scott Pelley that the U.S. would defend Taiwan "if in fact there was an unprecedented attack."
Given that since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, Biden has emphasized several times that U.S. military forces would not fight Russian troops on Ukrainian soil, Pelley pressed Biden on whether the situation would be different for an attack on Taiwan.
"So unlike Ukraine, to be clear, sir, U.S. forces -- U.S. men and women -- would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion?" Pelley asked.
"Yes," Biden replied.
After the interview, a White House official said U.S. policy on Taiwan had not changed, according to "60 Minutes."
Over the past few decades, the U.S. has intentionally maintained a stance characterized as "strategic ambiguity" regarding whether it would come to Taiwan's defense in the event of an attack by China.
Under this stance, Washington is deliberately vague about whether the U.S. would do more than just provide Taiwan weapons and actually send troops to help Taiwan fight China.
This is intended to not only deter Beijing from attempting an invasion, but also discourage Taiwan from taking bold actions that could lead to a war by not committing the U.S. to fight on its behalf.
Since taking office in January 2021, however, Biden has repeatedly used language that appeared to diverge from this longstanding policy, with Sunday's interview being the clearest message he has made on the issue so far.
Asked to comment on the significance of Biden's latest remarks, Shen Ming-shih (沈明室), director of the Taiwan government-funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research's Division of National Security Research, told CNA that the U.S. leader was gradually moving away from the "strategic ambiguity" policy because he had full confidence in President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) pledge to maintain the cross-strait status quo.
Shen said Taiwan's restraint in response to China's increasingly assertive military coercion meant that Biden was assured that Taiwan's government would not take any aggressive action, and that actions taken by Taiwan are defensive in nature and meant only to bolster its sovereignty instead of declaring independence.
Shen, who is also a retired Army infantry battalion commander, said Biden's latest message was also meant to express a tougher stance on China following the unprecedented large-scale Chinese military drills surrounding Taiwan that followed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan in early August.
The U.S. leader is doing so by taking into consideration the upcoming mid-term election, he added.
"One way or the other, U.S. goodwill and reassurance toward Taiwan is stronger than ever," Shen said.
Chieh Chung (揭仲), an associate research fellow at the Kuomintang think tank National Policy Foundation in charge of defense issues, meanwhile, told CNA that he believed the U.S. "would definitely in some way intervene" if China launched a full-scale invasion of Taiwan.
Washington will not sit idly by if Beijing attempts to unilaterally change the status quo in the west Pacific by force, Chieh said, because if so, it will cause the U.S.' Indo-Pacific strategy to collapse and lead to other U.S. allies questioning its leadership, Chieh said.
However, the scholar said he was worried that due to the fact that Washington does not have a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan like it has with Japan and also that Beijing possesses nuclear weapons, it could be "too late" if Washington ultimately decided to respond militarily and "too few" military sources it would deploy.
Meanwhile, on those occasions when Biden made statements that deviated from longstanding U.S. policy on Taiwan, U.S. administration officials would always later walk back those comments and signal that Washington's Taiwan policy had not changed, said Chieh.
In doing so, the administration seemed to think that it's better to uphold the decades-long "strategic ambiguity" than "strategic clarity" due to fears that China could decide to try and take Taiwan sooner than later before Washington intervenes, according to Chieh.
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