US President Joe Biden sparked a new firestorm in Washington-Beijing relations late on Thursday when he said the US was committed to defending Taiwan in case of a future Chinese attack, drawing a rebuke from Beijing.
Mr Biden broke with traditional US policy by openly confirming during a CNN town hall on Thursday that he would help protect Taiwan.
“I don’t want a Cold War with China — 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,” Mr Biden said.
Pressed on whether he would come to Taiwan’s defence if China tried to attack, Mr Biden responded: “Yes, we have a commitment to do that.”
Following Mr Biden's comments, China said there is no room for “concessions” on the issue of Taiwan.
“When it comes to issues related to China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and other core interests, there is no room for China to compromise or make concessions, and no one should underestimate the strong determination, firm will and strong ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative Wang Wenbin said.
Mr Wang added that Washington should “act and speak cautiously on the issue of Taiwan".
The president's comments on Thursday were some of his strongest yet on Taiwan, but Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin sidestepped the issue of US commitment on Friday.
Speaking at Nato headquarters in Brussels, Mr Austin refused to respond to hypotheticals regarding Taiwan, but did say “nobody wants to see cross-strait issues come to blows, certainly not President Biden".
“As we've done over multiple administrations, we will continue to help Taiwan with the sorts of capabilities that it needs to defend itself,” Mr Austin said.
He added that the US is committed to the official “One-China” policy, in which Washington accepts that Beijing governs Taiwan.
But that does not prevent the US from providing aid to Taiwan, including potent military hardware.
In Taipei, a Taiwanese representative said the US has shown its support for Taiwan through concrete actions and the island’s 23 million residents would not bow to pressure or act rashly.
“Taiwan will demonstrate our firm determination to defend ourselves and continue to work with countries with similar values to make a positive contribution towards the Taiwan Strait and Indo-Pacific region’s peace and stability,” the representative said.
The territory has been at the centre of displays of military might by both China and the US in recent weeks, with the People’s Liberation Army sending scores of planes into the island’s air-defence-identification zone. The exercises coincided with naval drills in nearby waters by the US and several allies, including Japan and the UK.
Mr Biden is expected to hold a virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping by year's end, US officials have said.