1118: Biden’s Remarks on “Independent” Taiwan, Blinken’s Concerns over Taiwan, Large Congressional Delegation to Taiwan

Biden Says It’s up to “Independent” Taiwan to Decide Its Own Future

Although “not encouraging” Taiwan independence, the United States does believe in letting Taiwan make “its own decisions,” U.S. President Joe Biden said after generating some confusion with a comment stating that Taiwan is “independent.”

Speaking with reporters on November 16, Biden said he told Chinese President Xi Jinping in their virtual meeting on November 15 that the U.S. would abide by the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).

He then said of Taiwan: “It’s independent. It makes its own decisions.”

Hours later, Biden clarified that “we are not encouraging independence” and that “we’re not going to change our policy at all.” 

When asked specifically about the “independent” comment, Biden replied: “I said that they have to decide, they, Taiwan, not us.” 

“We’re encouraging that they do exactly what the Taiwan Act requires,” he said, apparently referring to the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) that has served as a cornerstone of U.S. policy toward Taiwan since official diplomatic ties were severed that year.

“That’s what we’re doing. Let them make up their mind. Period,” Biden emphasized.

The comments came after Biden, in his virtual meeting with President Xi, underscored that the U.S. “strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” according to a White House readout of the meeting.

Chinese readouts of the Biden-Xi summit, however, said Biden “was opposed to” Taiwan’s independence and said Xi warned that those playing with fire around Taiwan “would inevitably burn themselves.”

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) expressed the Taiwan government’s gratitude toward Biden for affirming U.S. commitments to Taiwan, while accusing China of “purposely” mischaracterizing Biden’s statements.

Nevertheless, it was not the first time Biden’s comments have implied changes in U.S. policy and positions toward Taiwan, and have generated some confusion.

On October 21, Biden said in a CNN town hall that the U.S. would defend Taiwan if it were attacked by China, showing that Washington is giving up on “Strategic Ambiguity” and moving toward a policy of “Strategic Clarity” about defending Taiwan.

On August 19, in an interview with ABC News, Biden disputed the idea that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan might undermine the credibility of U.S. commitments to Taiwan and other allies. The U.S. would “respond” if anyone were to invade or take action against a NATO ally, Biden said, adding “same with Japan, same with South Korea, [and] same with Taiwan.”

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202111170008
[2] Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-11-16/biden-reminded-xi-he-voted-for-taiwan-law-during-summit
[3] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202110220007
[4] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2021/08/21/2003762969

Blinken Expresses Concerns over Taiwan to China’s Wang Yi in Call

On November 12, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed concerns over China’s continued pressure against Taiwan in a phone conversation with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, as the two countries prepare for a virtual summit between their leaders.

“The Secretary emphasized longstanding U.S. interest in peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and expressed concern regarding the PRC’s [the People’s Republic of China’s] continued military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan,” a State Department readout of the phone call said.

Blinken “urged Beijing to engage in meaningful dialogue to resolve cross-Strait issues [with Taiwan] peacefully and in a manner consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people on Taiwan,” it said.

Meanwhile, Wang urged the U.S. to “clearly and resolutely oppose any ‘Taiwan independence’ moves,” according to a statement issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

“Any connivance of and support for the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces undermines peace across the Taiwan Strait and would only boomerang in the end,” the statement quoted Wang as saying.

Relations between China and Taiwan are at their lowest point in decades, marked by military posturing and fiery rhetoric. Last month, China sent a record number of 149 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone over four days (from October 1 to 4), further escalating military tensions.

[1] CNN: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/11/13/politics/blinken-wang-yi-call-taiwan-intl-hnk/index.html
[2] Department of State: https://www.state.gov/secretary-blinkens-call-with-peoples-republic-of-china-prc-state-councilor-and-foreign-minister-wang-yi/
[3] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/cross-strait/202110040027

Large Congressional Delegation to Taiwan Aimed at Helping Support Taiwan’s Defense: Sen. Cornyn

A recent U.S. Congressional delegation to Taiwan was aimed at learning how the United States can help support Taiwan’s defense capabilities and to discuss ways to boost bilateral trade ties, according to Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who led the delegation.

In a news release issued on November 15, Sen. Cornyn said that the delegates have returned to the United States on November 14 after concluding an Indo-Pacific trip in the past few days that took it to Taiwan, the Philippines and India, “to strengthen ties with critical allies and partners to counter Chinese aggression.”

The delegation also consisted of Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) as well as Reps. Tony Gonzales (R-TX) and Jake Ellzey (R-TX).

While visiting Taiwan, the delegation met with President Tsai Ing-wen along with defense and foreign affairs leadership in Taipei, “to learn how the U.S. can best support Taiwan’s development of domestic asymmetric defense capabilities and discuss trade relations.”

“The Indo-Pacific is the largest military theater in the world, and our allies there are invaluable to ensuring we can counter China’s overreach,” said Cornyn.

After Cornyn made public their visit to Taiwan, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) was finally able to confirm their three-day visit, saying they met with Tsai, National Security Council Secretary-General Wellington Koo, Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng, and Deputy Foreign Minister Harry Tseng.

They also talked with Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu via video conference instead of in person because Wu was then undergoing a 14-day quarantine after returning from a trip to Europe.

MOFA said the recently concluded trip is the first ever large-scale U.S. Congressional delegation to Taiwan consisting of lawmakers from both the Senate and the House and has exemplified long-term U.S. support toward Taiwan.

Cornyn is one of the initiators of several pro-Taiwan bills in the U.S. Senate, including the “Taiwan Partnership Act” (S.2395) that was submitted in July, calling for partnership between the U.S. National Guard and Taiwan’s military, and the “Taiwan Deterrence Act” (S.3192) put forth earlier this month to increase military aid to Taiwan and bolster its defense, amid China’s growing coercion.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202111150006
[2] Sen. Cornyn’s Press: https://www.cornyn.senate.gov/content/news/cornyn-leads-delegation-southeast-asia-support-us-military%E2%80%99s-largest-combatant-command