Joe Biden (300247)
President Joe Biden Credit: Bill Moore photo

When asked by a reporter on Monday if he would defend Taiwan if China invaded the island nation, President Biden said, “Yes.” And with that response a rather ordinary five-day tour of Asia was suddenly a talking point for the media, particularly for the right wing outlets.

Biden’s gaffe, as the National Review termed his reply, was nothing more than the administration’s general policy, the president went on to explain to the reporter. “The policy has not changed at all,” he said, addressing whether the U.S. would send troops if such an invasion occurred.

The response came on Biden’s second day of the visit to Japan, and was asked in the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and the military activity in Southeast Asia, which the president appeared to be far more forceful about America’s protection of Taiwan than Ukraine. “That’s a commitment we made,” he said, elaborating on his answer. China’s invasion of Taiwan, he said, would “just not be appropriate…it would dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.”

Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, said the Taiwan issue was “a purely internal affair for China. On issues touching on China’s core interest of sovereignty and territorial integrity, China has no room for compromise or concession.”

He further stated that China would defend the interests with the force of its 1.4 billion people. “No one should underestimate the firm resolve, staunch will and strong ability of the Chinese people in defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

A more heated response came from the Chinese State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office which stated that the “U.S. was playing with fire and using the Taiwan card to contain China, and will itself get burned.”

Biden’s comment could not come at a worst time with turmoil brewing inside China’s elite leadership. And it will only exacerbate the differences between the U.S. and China, which is currently sending squadrons of planes into Taiwan’s self-declared Air Defense Zone. “We urge the U.S. to stop saying and doing anything in violation of the one-China principle and the three China-U.S. Joint Communiques,” said Zhu Fenglian, China’s Taiwan Affairs spokesperson.

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