Biden Commits US to War for Taiwan
If China invades and seizes islands within sight of the Chinese coast, and Taiwan resists, what would Biden do?
If China invades Taiwan to unify it with the mainland, the United States will go to war to defend Taiwan and send U.S. troops to fight the invaders. That is the commitment made last week by President Joe Biden. Asked by CBS's Scott Pelley on "60 Minutes" if the U.S. would fight in defense of Taiwan if China invaded, Biden replied, "Yes, if, in fact, there was an unprecedented attack." Pelley followed up: "So, unlike Ukraine, to be clear, sir, U.S. forces—U.S. men and women—would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion."
"Yes," Biden responded.
As Aaron Blake of The Washington Post reports, this is "a U.S. president firmly committing to go to war." Moreover, it is only the "latest of increasingly hawkish comments" made by Biden on the China-Taiwan issue. For the fourth time in his presidency, Biden has said the U.S. will fight for Taiwan, though that could mean all-out war with China, which claims Taiwan as its sovereign territory and which has a growing stockpile of strategic missiles and nuclear weapons to validate its claim.
In August 2021, as Blake relates, Biden declared, "We made a sacred commitment to Article 5 that if in fact anyone were to invade or take action against our NATO allies, we would respond. ... Same with Japan, same with South Korea, same with—Taiwan." But Taiwan has no mutual security treaty with the United States, nor any Article 5 war guarantee that obligates us to defend the island. The U.S.-Taiwan security pact of the 1950s was abrogated in 1979, when Jimmy Carter recognized Beijing as the legitimate government of China. In October 2021, Biden was again asked: "China just tested a hypersonic missile. What will you do to keep up with them militarily, and can you vow to protect Taiwan?"
Biden's response: "Yes and yes."
In a follow-up, Biden was asked again, "So are you saying that the United States would come to Taiwan's defense if China attacked?" Biden: "Yes, yes, we have a commitment to do that." Yet we have no such commitment, no such obligation, though Biden appeared to be establishing one as head of government, head of state, and commander in chief.
In May, Biden was asked, "Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?"
Q: "You are?"
Biden: "That's the commitment we made."
Biden has, four times in his 20-month presidency, declared the U.S. is obligated to come to the defense of Taiwan, if China attacks, blockades or invades, and that, as president, he will honor what he believes to be a national commitment and U.S. war guarantee. Each of the times Biden has declared that we are obligated to fight for Taiwan and he will honor that obligation, White House staff have walked back his words. There is no change in U.S. policy, unnamed officials assure the press. U.S. policy is still presumably "strategic ambiguity" as to what we will do should China attack. Nor is Taiwan the only site in the seas off the China coast where Biden seems to have issued a unilateral U.S. war guarantee. Biden has said that if the Philippines seeks to retrieve its islets in the South China Sea now occupied by China, America will fight on Manila's side. He has indicated that the U.S. mutual security treaty with Japan covers the Senkaku Islands Japan occupies but China claims.
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One wonders: If China invades and seizes islands claimed and occupied by Taiwan within sight of the Chinese coast, and Taiwan resists, what would Biden do? In the Nixon-Kennedy campaign of 1960, JFK called it "unwise" to take a risk of being dragged into war, which could lead to a world war, over islands like Quemoy and Matsu that were not strategically defensible. If Beijing invaded and occupied islands a few miles right off its coast, and Taiwan resisted, would Biden send the Seventh Fleet to war with China? The basic question raised by these Biden commitments to go to war with a China with a huge army and fleet, and in its own home region, is—why?
No U.S. president after Richard Nixon has challenged China's claim that there is but "one China" and Taiwan "is a part of China." How many battle deaths, how many war dead, are we willing to sacrifice to prevent Beijing taking political control of an island of 23 million Taiwanese 6,000 miles away from the United States? We did not fight to prevent China from imposing its control on 7 million people of Hong Kong. Why then does the independence of 23 million Taiwanese justify a U.S. war with the world's most populous nation?
And if we fought a war with China over Taiwan, what would be our long-term strategic goal? Independence for Taiwan? But did we not cede that in the 1970s with Nixon's trip to China, his Shanghai Communique and Carter's severing of relations with the Republic of China?