May 24, 2022
Biden says US willing to respond ‘militarily’ if Taiwan is attacked 5/23/22 Transcript
President Joe Biden’s remarks on whether the US would intervene militarily if China were to attack Taiwan on 5/23/22. Read the transcript here.
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… president was asked if the United States would, quote, “Get involved militarily,” I should say, “If China were to invade Taiwan.” This is the exchange.
Speaker 2: (00:13)
You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan, if it comes to that?
President Biden: (00:23)
Speaker 2: (00:24)
President Biden: (00:27)
That’s the commitment we made. We agreed with The One China Policy, we signed onto it and all the attendant agreements made from there. But the idea that it could be taken by force, just taken by force, is just not appropriate. It’ll dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.
The United States already provides defensive weapons to Taiwan, and has previously maintained what is called, strategic ambiguity about intervening militarily in the event of a Chinese attack. The comments this morning seemed a little less ambiguous. As to whether they were strategic, CNN has learned the president’s comments caught his top aids off guard. They are already issuing some clarifications this morning. Beijing issued a response a short time ago as well.
Speaker 4: (01:20)
The president also announced that 13 nations will be joining a new Asia Pacific economic framework. The goal is to level the economic playing field with China. President Biden also ripping into Vladimir Putin for attempting to eliminate the identity of Ukraine. He says, “Russia must pay a long term price.” When asked about the challenges facing the US economy, the president insisted a recession is not inevitable. CNN Chief White House Correspondent, Kaitlin Collins, traveling with the president. She is live with us now from Tokyo with the very latest here. Kaitlin?
Kaitlin Collins: (01:55)
Yeah. There were no conditions when the president made that striking comment about Taiwan, no clarifications that he offered later on, as he was talking about this remarkable position that he had just taken on Taiwan. Somewhere he had gone close to that before, but never this assertive as he was today, during that press conference. Where he said yes, very bluntly, that the United States would come to Taiwan’s aid militarily, should China attack Taiwan. That is of course incredibly significant. It caught some of the president’s own advisors who were in the room off guard, because they did not expect the president to be that unvarnished in his view of what the United States would do if China were to attack Taiwan. Something that the United States obviously has been concerned about, and other allies, including Japan, ever since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That’s only amplified that. The reason this is so significant is before the United States has warned China against using force in Taiwan, but they’ve been very vague on purpose, purposefully vague, on what they would do if China did, if they did use force in Taiwan.
Kaitlin Collins: (02:58)
That has been this purpose, this really intent called strategic ambiguity, where they’re not saying what they would do, what they would not do. President Biden has tiptoed close to that before, only for aides to later walk it back. Shortly after he made these comments today, you did see aides go out and tell CNN, on background of course, which means there is no name attached to it, that the president’s position on Taiwan had not changed. But certainly saying that yes, he would come to their aid militarily is a big change, compared to just simply providing them with defensive weapons, with lethal weapons, like the United States has said they are doing, and would be prepared to do going ahead. So, I think when you look back at what the aides say when they do walk back these comments, there’s only so many times the aides can walk back a comment that the president makes, before it’s very clear what his intent is and what his belief is, should this rise to that matter, if China did attack Taiwan.
Speaker 4: (03:50)
Yeah. Clearly there’s a shift. I think it’s very obvious as you listen to him, in that case there. It was also really interesting Kaitlin, and I know it was to you as well, Biden’s comments when it came to Ukraine and what President Putin’s goal is there.
Kaitlin Collins: (04:07)
Yeah. Of course this was the larger context really of the Taiwan situation, because the president said while he does not believe ultimately that China will invade Taiwan, he was talking about basically how the dynamics have changed. People have been raising the question of the lessons learned from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and what that means. I think that is part of the reason you’ve seen such a strong action by the United States when it comes to arming Ukraine, providing them with all of this weaponry that they’ve been providing them with, is they want it to be a lesson. They know China is watching closely and they want them to be paying attention to how the world is treating Russia. Basically saying, if this is what you do in Taiwan, this is how you will be treated by the rest of the world. The president today, talking about making sure that President Putin is paying a price.
President Biden: (04:53)
They’re showing bombings of every school. No military purpose. Schools, hospitals, daycare centers, all the things, museums, blowing up all the museums. I believe what Putin’s attempting to do is eliminate the identity of Ukraine, the identity. He can’t occupy it, but he can try to destroy its identity. The reason I bother to mention that is, he has to pay and Russia has to pay a long term price for that.
Kaitlin Collins: (05:28)
Those comments there, really showing a lot of the insight into what the president believes is happening here. Saying that he doesn’t believe ultimately Putin will be able to occupy Ukraine, but saying that this goal of what you’re seeing happening on a daily basis, what President Zelensky was just talking about a few moments ago in his address, shows what Putin’s true intent is. Which he said is to eliminate the identity of the Ukrainian people. Of course, this is something that has loomed over almost every conversation the president has had here in Asia.
Speaker 4: (05:56)
Yeah. Certainly. Kaitlin, thank you so much. Live for us from Tokyo. We do appreciate it. Berman.
Joining us now, Sue Mi Terry, former CIA North Korea Analyst and former White House official, she also serves as the Director of the Asia Program and Center for Korean History and Public Policy at the Wilson Center. Dr. Terry, great to have you here. President Biden asked if the US would get involved militarily if China invades Taiwan. His answer, yes. The significance?
Dr. Sue Mi Terry: (06:23)
Well, it is significant because even the US policy towards China and Taiwan has not changed. We stand by One China Policy. China is not going to take this lightly. This is Biden’s second or third time saying that he might protect Taiwan, or get involved militarily. So, it does send a very strong message, and it is shift. It is a shift because we always practice, US, strategic ambiguity when we’re pressed with this question. So, I’m sure the aides are walking back and they don’t know… They’re trying to manage this because of China. I’m sure Xi Jinping is not liking what he’s hearing.
Richard Haas from the Council of Foreign Relations applauded what the president said just a short time ago, and called it strategic clarity.
Dr. Sue Mi Terry: (07:09)
Do you think it’s important to tell China what the US position is here clearly?
Dr. Sue Mi Terry: (07:14)
I think post Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, things have shifted. Things have changed. I think this is Biden, what President Biden is trying to do is really deter China, and trying to send a very strong message. So, I would’ve said maybe not pre Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But again, post Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I think it is important for us to send a very, very strong signal to China.
How has Ukraine changed China’s view of the world, do you think?
Dr. Sue Mi Terry: (07:42)
If I’m Xi Jinping I would think twice about the whole Taiwan situation. Not that they don’t believe in… It’s not that China’s vision of Taiwan is different. It’s just that how the world has responded, how the world came together to respond in terms of Russia, to respond against Russia. Just the coalition that Biden’s administration was able to build. If I’m Xi Jinping, I’d think twice about it.
Do you have a sense of how far the United States would be willing to go when it gets involved militarily, as President Biden just promised to do in Taiwan?
Dr. Sue Mi Terry: (08:17)
I think for President Biden, it might be different with a different president, but for this president, I think he made it pretty clear. This is again, not the first time implying this. So, I think for President Biden, for this president, if China were to attack Taiwan, I think he means it when he said we’re getting involved militarily.
Dr. Terry. Great to have you here. Thank you so much.