Beijing—Beijing on Monday said President Joe Biden’s latest comments that the United States would defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion “severely violate” Washington’s policy towards the island.
China reacted angrily on Monday, with foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning telling a regular press briefing: “The US remarks… severely violate the important commitment the US made not to support Taiwan independence, and send a seriously erroneous signal to Taiwanese separatist independence forces.”
“We are willing to make the biggest sincere efforts to strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification,” Mao said.
“At the same time, we will never tolerate any activities aimed at splitting the country, and reserve the choice to take all necessary measures.”
Washington cut formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979, switching recognition to Beijing as the sole representative of China—but it has maintained a decisive if delicate, role in supporting the island since.
In an interview with US broadcaster CBS that was aired on Sunday, Biden was asked whether US troops would defend Taiwan, and replied “yes,” if it were “an unprecedented attack.”
He went on to say that Taiwan makes its “own judgements” about independence and the US was not “encouraging… their being independent.”
“That’s their decision,” he said.
Tensions between China and the US are already higher than usual in the wake of a rare visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi, a key Biden ally and speaker of the House of Representatives.
Biden’s new comments are “dangerous, even if not an official change in policy,” wrote Jessica Chen Weiss, professor of government at Cornell University, on Twitter.
“More explicit here than in previous gaffes is the suggestion that the US would send troops to fight for Taiwan, regardless of what Taiwan does,” she wrote, adding that it will “strengthen perceptions that the US is issuing Taiwan a blank check.”
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, expressed its “sincere gratitude” for Biden’s support on Monday.