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National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan walked back President Biden’s statement that the U.S. would deploy troops to defend Taiwan from China on Tuesday, saying Biden was answering a hypothetical and that there was no change in policy.
Sullivan’s made the statement during a Tuesday press briefing at the White House, where a reporter pushed him to explain Biden’s comments. The president stated unequivocally on Sunday that the U.S. would defend Taiwan from China in the event of an “unprecedented attack.”
The U.S. has not previously made such promises regarding Taiwan, and Sullivan stated that Biden’s statement was not to be taken as a policy change.
“As the president said in his interview on ‘60 Minutes,’ we continue to stand behind the One China policy,” Sullivan said. “When the President of the United States wants to announce a policy change, he will do so. He has not done so.”
“[Biden] stands behind the historic U.S. policy toward Taiwan that has existed through Democrat and Republican administrations and has helped keep peace and stability across the Taiwan strait for decades,” he continued.
The traditional U.S. One China policy acknowledges Beijing as the sole government of China and relegates Taiwan to only an informal diplomatic status.
Sullivan’s statement marks the latest instance in which the White House has had to walk back Biden’s comments on Taiwan. While Biden stated on Sunday and in other instances that the U.S. stands behind the One China policy, his repeated suggestions that the U.S. would defend the self-governed island militarily.
Biden first made the blunder in an August 2021 interview with George Stephanopoulos, in which he listed Taiwan among America’s closest allies that we would be willing to defend.
Biden made the statement again during a CNN town hall in October, stating that the U.S. has a “commitment” to defend Taiwan against an attack.
The president then repeated the statement again in May, saying the defense of Taiwan is a “commitment we made.”
The White House clarified each time that the U.S. was not announcing any such commitment and that there was no change in policy.