The White House had to row back Biden's comments after he suggested the US would defend Taiwan from an attack by China
President Joe Biden. Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images
Biden told a CNN city hall on Thursday that the US would defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack.
The White House later made it clear that US policy of "strategic ambiguity" has not changed.
China's recent military activity has raised fears that it will attempt to capture what it regards as its own island.
The White House clarified President Joe Biden's comments after saying the US would defend Taiwan if it were attacked by China, which appeared to be a significant change in US foreign policy.
When asked by CNN presenter Anderson Cooper at an event at City Hall on Thursday whether Biden would defend Taiwan if China attacked it, the president replied, "Yes, we are committed."
Aggressive Chinese rhetoric and military activity in recent months have sparked tension in Taiwan, which has ruled itself as an independent state for decades and which China claims as part of its territory.
The comments appeared to be a departure from the "strategic ambiguity" policy that the US has long pursued with Taiwan. The policy means that the US deliberately did not indicate whether it would help Taiwan if it invaded.
A White House spokesman subsequently said the president's remarks did not signal a change in policy.
"The US defense relationship with Taiwan is governed by the Taiwan Relations Act," the spokesman told reporters, according to The Guardian.
"We will keep our commitment under the law, we will continue to support Taiwan's self-defense, and we will continue to oppose unilateral changes to the status quo."
Under the Taiwan Relations Act, the US supports the island but is not bound by a formal military alliance, the Financial Times reported.
China's aggressive stance towards Taiwan has increased in recent months.
A comment published earlier this month in the Global Times, a Chinese state-run tabloid, said Taiwan's current status was "definitely coming to an end" and said China would "teach Taiwanese independence forces a hard lesson."
A record number of fighter jets also entered the island's air defense zone for several days in a row in early October.
In a statement released Friday by the Global Times, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry said: "Nobody should underestimate the strong determination, determination and ability of the Chinese people to protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Reuters reported Friday that White House officials are preparing for an unspecified virtual meeting between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
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