Biden’s comments Thursday were viewed as stretching the “strategic ambiguity” Washington has maintained over how it would respond to an assault on the self-governing island republic.
The U.S. should “be cautious with its words and actions on the Taiwan issue, and not send any wrong signals to the separatist forces of Taiwan independence, so as not to seriously damage China-U.S. relations and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” Wang said.
“Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory. The Taiwan issue is purely an internal affair of China that allows no foreign intervention."
- Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin
In his comments, Biden said the U.S. did not want a new Cold War but expressed concern about whether China was “going to engage in activities that will put them in a position where they may make a serious mistake."
“I just want to make China understand that we are not going to step back, we are not going to change any of our views.” Biden said. Asked whether the U.S. would come to Taiwan's defense if it were attacked, he replied: “Yes, we have a commitment to do that.”
In Taipei, a spokesperson for independence-minded President Tsai Ing-wen said the U.S. has shown its support for Taiwan through concrete actions and the island's 23 million citizens would not surrender to pressure or act rashly.
“I just want to make China understand that we are not going to step back, we are not going to change any of our views."
- President Joe Biden
“Taiwan will demonstrate our firm determination to defend ourselves and continue to work with countries with similar values to make a positive contribution toward the Taiwan Strait and Indo-Pacific region’s peace and stability,” spokesperson Chang Tun-han said.
China and Taiwan split during a civil war in 1949. The U.S. cut formal diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979 in order to recognize Beijing. The U.S. does not openly contest China's claim to Taiwan, but is committed by law to ensure the island can defend itself and to treat all threats toward it as matters of “grave concern."
Under President Xi Jinping, who is also Communist Party leader and head of the armed forces, China has been stepping up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan. Over its National Day weekend at the beginning of the month, China sent a record 149 military aircraft southwest of Taiwan in strike group formations, prompting Taiwan to scramble aircraft and activate its air defense missile systems.
China has also recently held beach landing exercises on its side of the roughly 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait that, such as the aircraft incursions, it described as a warning to Tsai’s administration.
The U.S. has reinforced its support for Taiwan with military sales. State Department spokesman Ned Price said this month that American support for Taiwan is “rock solid." The U.S. has “also been very clear that we are committed to deepening our ties with Taiwan,” Price said.
On Wednesday, Biden’s pick for ambassador to Beijing, Nicholas Burns, told lawmakers considering his nomination that Americans should “have confidence in our strength” when dealing with the rise of China, a nation he said the U.S. and its allies could manage.
Burns echoed the Biden administration’s stand on cooperating with China where possible but condemning many of its actions, including its policies toward Taiwan and the semi-autonomous territory of Hong Kong, where it has virtually eliminated dissident voices through stiff legislation and arrests.