The White House walked back comments President Joe Biden made about sending U.S. troops to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.
Biden made the remarks during a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday.
Correspondent Scott Pelley asked the president if the U.S. military would defend the democratic government of Taiwan should China take inspiration from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and attack the self-governed island.
“[W]ould U.S. forces defend the island?” Pelley asked, in the interview taped on Thursday.
“Yes, if in fact there was an unprecedented attack,” the president said.
“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?” Pelley clarified.
“Yes,” Biden said.
However, following the interview, a White House official told “60 Minutes” that U.S. policy regarding Taiwan hasn’t changed.
The U.S. maintains “strategic ambiguity” on whether American soldiers would defend Taiwan, but has pledged to help equip the island to defend itself under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.
Earlier this month, the State Department announced the sale of a $1.1 billion defense package — which included anti-ship and air-to-air missiles — to Taiwan.
“This package was in the works for some time precisely because we expected it would be needed as China increased its pressure on Taiwan,” State Department Spokesperson Vedant Patel said during a press briefing on Sept. 6.
The sale sparked backlash from China.
Chinese Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said the deal “severely jeopardizes China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
Patel, however, said there was no reason for China to react poorly as the systems are only for “defensive purposes” and the U.S. has been providing defensive capabilities to the Democratic island for decades, while respecting its “one China” policy which recognizes Taiwan as part of the country.
“Consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. makes available to Taiwan defense articles and services necessary to enable it to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability,” he said. “I’ll note that since 2010, the Executive Branch has notified Congress of over $35 billion in arms sales to Taiwan.”