Asked to clarify if he meant that unlike in Ukraine, US forces – American men and women – would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, Biden replied: “Yes.”
A White House spokesperson said US policy towards Taiwan had not changed, after being asked about the president’s comment.
The interview is the latest time that Biden has appeared to go beyond long-standing stated US policy on Taiwan, but his statement was clearer than previous ones about committing US troops to the defend the island.
The US has long stuck to a policy of “strategic ambiguity”, not making clear whether it would respond militarily to an attack on Taiwan.
A White House spokesperson said after the 60 Minutes interview: “The president has said this before, including in Tokyo earlier this year. He also made clear then that our Taiwan policy hasn’t changed. That remains true.”
The CBS interview with Biden was conducted last week. The president is in Britain for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral on Monday.
In May, Biden was asked if he was willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan and replied: ‘ Yes.that is the commitment we made
In the 60 Minutes interview, Biden reiterated the US did not support Taiwanese independence and remained committed to a “One-China” policy in which Washington officially recognises Beijing, not Taipei.
Biden’s remarks are sure to enrage Beijing, which was greatly angered by a visit to Taiwan by US Speaker Nancy Pelosiy in August. That visit promoted China to conduct its largest-ever military exercises around Taiwan.
Chinese president Xi Jinping has vowed to bring democratically governed Taiwan under Beijing’s control and has not ruled out the use of force.
There was no immediate response to a request for comment from China’s embassy in Washington.
In a phone call with Biden in July, Xi warned against playing with fire over Taiwan, saying “those who play with fire will perish by it”.
Asked in October last year if the US would come to the defence of Taiwan, Biden said: “Yes, we have a commitment to do that.” The United States is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself.
At that time, a White House spokesperson said Biden was not announcing any change in US policy and some experts referred to the comment as a “gaffe”.
Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said if Biden made such pledges he needed to ensure he could back them up.
“If President Biden plans to defend Taiwan, then he should make sure the US military has the capability to do so,” she said. “Rhetorical support that isn’t backed up by real capabilities is unlikely to strengthen deterrence.”
Biden’s Asia policy czar, Kurt Campbell, has in the past rejected any move to “strategic clarity” over Taiwan, saying there were “significant downsides” to that approach.