Biden Goes Off Script To Commit America To Defend Taiwan In Military Conflict

biden taiwan
Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

President Biden’s trip to Asia has proven eventful thanks to what is being reported as an unscripted answer to a reporter’s question regarding U.S. responses in the event China attempts to invade Taiwan. 

The question now is, was the answer the President gave a typical Sleepy Joe gaffe, or was it strategic on his part in an attempt to send a message?

And if it was strategic, was the message meant more for China or his aides?

The Answer Everyone is Talking About

While meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister during his touted Asia trip, a reporter asked President Biden:

“You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?”

To which the President responded, “Yes.” adding,

“We agree with the One China Policy. We signed onto it, and all the attendant agreements made from there. But the idea that Taiwan can be taken by force, it’s just not appropriate. It will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.”

This answer is so salacious because, as Biden pointed out, the U.S. officially agrees with the One China Policy. Unofficially, of course, the real answer is what Biden said: the U.S. is willing to fight a war halfway around the world over Taiwan.

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Who is Shaping Policy; the President or His Aides?

The White House has mastered the art of the moonwalk thanks to the President’s penchant for some extemporaneous policymaking. A statement released stated:

“As the President said, our policy has not changed. He reiterated our One China Policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself.”

All that to essentially claim that the President still supports the idea of a One China Policy, which essentially states that the United States won’t interfere with the peaceful melding of Taiwan into China. With the caveat that we also still consider ourselves on the hook to assist Taiwan theoretically just shy of sending in our own troops.

However, that’s not what the President did say. He said when pressed about engaging militarily, “yes.” Hard to misunderstand, yes.

Now I suppose the argument could be made that perhaps he assumed the reporter was asking about military aid the likes of what we have provided Ukraine. However, it’s hard to believe the President wasn’t briefed on this question before the trip, as pretty much everyone speculates what would happen should China decide to emulate Russia.

Newt Gingrich stated it quite well on Fox & Friends after predictably praising the President’s answer:

“I can’t understand how you walk it back. I mean, the word yes is definitive…”

He went on to say about his aides:

“He’s the President, they’re not.”

Is he, though? Or is he just President in name alone?

What Does China Say About All This?

Understandably China was less than thrilled by the President’s remarks. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin released the following:

“No one should underestimate the strong determination, firm will and formidable ability of the Chinese people.”

That warning is far from empty. President Xi began bolstering the Chinese military almost immediately upon taking office and has been increasingly dipping its proverbial toe into an increased military show of force. 

But the President’s statement on Taiwan isn’t the only thing that has China’s shorts in a bunch. Tuesday’s meeting with “The Quad” also has China’s blood pressure up. 

The Quad, a nickname for the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between the United States, Japan, India, and Australia, is seen by China as an attempt by the United States to form an Asian version of NATO.

While the administration is adamant that The Quad is not the beginnings of an Asian NATO, it certainly smells of one, complete with two naval exercises since 2020. 

Additionally, President Biden has used his Asia trip to push for the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). Wang responded to both as the United States “trumpeting the Cold War mentality” and “stoking geopolitical rivalry.”

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Something Republicans Can Get Behind

While the President’s comment might’ve made his national security advisors uncomfortable, Republicans liked it.

Newt Gingrich told Fox News:

“I thought what President Biden did was exactly right.”

In addition to Newt Gingrich’s approval, Congressman Michael McCaul from Texas told CNN:

“I don’t think the intelligence community would appreciate this remark. Having said that, I personally kind of like it because it does provide a deterrent message that we will defend Taiwan. And coming from the president, it’s very, very strong. And I think China needs to understand that they can’t take this lightly and we’re not going to sit back idly and watch them invade Taiwan and the South China Sea. And just like Putin, it’s not a question of if but when he decides to do it.”

Off-the-cuff comments from the leader of (one would hope) the most mighty military in the world shouldn’t be applauded regardless of political sides.

And leading up to Memorial Day weekend, it may be more prudent to be measured how we speak of military engagement versus shooting from the hip.

All Things Point to Increased Military Might

It’s not a bad time to be in the business of war.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said of bolstering their military while President Biden was visiting, “I have said all options are on the table, including the capability for Japan to carry out first strikes on enemy bases.”

Quite a departure from the pacifist model Japan has adhered to since World War II. President Biden’s response?

“I applaud Japan’s determination to strengthen its defense – a strong Japan, and a strong Japan-U.S. alliance, is a force for good in the world.”

Additionally, President Biden agreed to expand military exercises with South Korea and said we might be open to repositioning nuclear-armed military assets.

So did Sleepy Joe make a blunder, or was he sending a message? For a seasoned politician like Biden, it may be fair to think that he still may have some moves outside his handlers.

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USAF Retired, Bronze Star recipient, outspoken veteran advocate. Hot mess mom to two monsters and wife to equal parts... More about Kathleen J. Anderson

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