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U.S. will defend Taiwan if China attacks, Biden says

The U.S. will use force to defend Taiwan in the event of an attack by the People's Republic of China, President Biden said Monday during a news conference in Tokyo.

When asked if the U.S. would defend Taiwan, Biden said "Yes," and "That's the commitment we made."

In fact, the U.S. has committed to providing Taiwan with the means to defend itself but has maintained a policy of "strategic ambiguity" as to whether the U.S. would intervene militarily.

"We agree with a One China policy, Biden said. "We've signed on to it and all the intended agreements made from there. But the idea that [Taiwan] can be taken by force, just taken by force, is just not appropriate." He also compared a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan with the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

America's One China policy, The Washington Post explains, is "a long-standing bit of diplomatic legerdemain under which the U.S. recognizes China's position that there is only one Chinese government, but does not accept Beijing's view that Taiwan is under its rightful control."

Taiwan's official name is the Republic of China. The ROC government retreated to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the mainland to communist forces but continued to represent China in the United Nations until 1971.  

Update 4:38 p.m. ET: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters that Biden was merely reiterating the U.S. commitment to provide arms to Taiwan and that U.S. policy toward Taiwan has not changed. "As the president said, our One China policy has not changed. He reiterated that policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also highlighted our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to help provide Taiwan the means to defend itself. So, again, our policy has not changed."