Austin stops short of endorsing Biden’s vow to defend Taiwan

Speaking on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” in an interview that aired Sunday, Austin said: “In accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, we’re committed to helping Taiwan develop the capability to defend itself. And that work has gone on over time and will continue into the future.”

In an interview that aired two weeks ago on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Biden stated that the United States would defend Taiwan if it were to be attacked and then reiterated his position when interviewer Scott Pelley asked him about it again.

Zakaria noted that Biden went beyond what has been stated U.S. policy. He asked Austin: “Is the American military prepared to do that?”

“The American military is always prepared to protect our interests, and live up to our commitments,” Austin said.

He added: “I think the president was clear in providing his answers as he responded to a hypothetical question. But, again, we continue to work to make sure that we have the right capabilities in the right places to ensure that we help our allies maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

American policy toward Taiwan has been fuzzy in many areas since the 1970s, when the U.S. belatedly recognized China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory. Taiwan is where nationalist forces fled to at the conclusion of Mao Zedong’s victory in China’s long civil war in 1949, and China has always made it clear it wants Taiwan back.

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“We don’t want to see a unilateral change to the status quo,” Austin told Zakaria.

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