US President Joe Biden on Monday pledged to militarily defend Taiwan if China attempts to take control of the self-governing island by force, warning Beijing to “flirt with danger”.
Biden made the remarks in Tokyo during an official visit to Japan, where he met with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday. He had previously visited South Korea.
US officials describe Japan and South Korea as linchpins of Washington’s offensive against China’s growing commercial and military power, as well as allies in the Western alliance to isolate Russia after its aggression against neighboring Ukraine.
At a joint press conference, Biden and Kishida took a firm tone towards China and advocated their “common vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific (region)” and agreed to monitor Chinese naval activity in the area where Beijing has growing ambitions.
When Biden was asked if the United States would intervene militarily against Beijing in the event of a Chinese attempt to take control of Taiwan by force, the president replied: “It is the commitment that we made.”
“We agree with the one China policy, and we have signed for it … but the idea that Taiwan should be taken by force is not appropriate,” he added.
China regards Taiwan as a rogue province that should be integrated into the country, by force if necessary.
Beijing replied on Monday that it is willing to defend its national interests in Taiwan.
“No one should underestimate the firm determination, firm will and ability of the Chinese people to uphold national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters.
– Russia ‘must pay the price’ –
Biden also attacked the Russian government, which “has to pay a long-term price” for its “barbarism in Ukraine,” alluding to harsh sanctions imposed by Washington and its allies.
“It’s not just about Ukraine,” Biden said, “because if the sanctions are not maintained, what signal would be sent to China about the cost of an attempted takeover of Taiwan by force?”
On Tuesday, Biden will seek to bolster American leadership in the Asia Pacific region at a summit with the rulers of Australia, India and Japan, the so-called “Quad” group.
However, India has now stood out for its refusal to openly condemn the war in Ukraine, or to reduce its exchanges with Russia. Biden will meet Tuesday alone with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
There have been fears throughout Biden’s Asian tour that North Korea might launch a nuclear-capable missile or even a bomb, something that did not occur during his visit to Seoul.
But US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters the threat remains.
“If North Korea acts, we will be prepared to respond. If North Korea does not act, it will have the opportunity, as we have said repeatedly, to come to the table” of negotiations, he said.
Pyongyang has so far refused US calls for dialogue, officials say, even ignoring offers to help fight a sudden outbreak of Covid-19.
– New Economic Framework –
On the other hand, the US president announced in Tokyo on Monday the launch of a new economic framework for the Asia-Pacific region that will initially have 13 member countries, including India and Japan, but without China.
“The United States and Japan along with 11 other countries will launch the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework,” Biden said of the mechanism, which will not be a free trade agreement. This framework provides for integration in four key areas: the digital economy, supply chains, green energy and the fight against corruption.
“The United States and Japan, along with 11 other nations, are going to launch the Economic Framework for the Indo-Pacific (region),” Biden said during the press conference with Fumio Kishida.
“It is a commitment to work with our close friends and partners in the region, in the face of challenges to guarantee economic competitiveness in the 21st century,” added the US president, who said he considered lifting some tariff barriers for China.
The United States has little interest in returning to a binding trade agreement with Asia after former President Donald Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2017.
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