At the G-7 summit, President Joe Biden told a reporter that most U.S. allies are “clear” that if China were to try to invade Taiwan, “there would be a response.”
Biden was asked by a reporter on Sunday how he would manage a diplomatic relationship with China, and how he would strengthen the U.S. alliance with other countries like Japan and South Korea in order to counter China.
In a part of his response, Biden noted that the United States will continue to maintain the Chinese Communist Party’s “One China” policy.
“Now, you all know, but the public kind of forgets, that [the One China policy] says that neither country, China or Taiwan, neither territory, can independently declare what they’re going to do—period. There has to be a mutually agreed outcome,” Biden said.
“So [the United States is] sticking by that. We’re not going to tell China what they can do,” he said.
“We made it clear that we don’t expect Taiwan to declare independence either. But in the meantime, we’re going to continue to put Taiwan in a position that they can defend themselves.
“And there is clear understanding among most of our allies that in fact, if China were to act unilaterally, there would be a response, there would be a response.”
Since the start of this presidency, Biden has said at least four times that the United States would defend Taiwan in the event of an attempted invasion from China.
Biden also asserted, in the context of countering destabilizing actions from China: “I think we’re more united than we’ve ever been in the Pacific in terms of maintaining stability and, and maintaining a sense of security.”
He noted that U.S. relations with Japan “have never, ever ever in American history been stronger,” and that Japan is seeing a “beginning of a rapprochement with South Korea.”
In other remarks, Biden acknowledged that the military hotline with China is not currently working, but that overall, the U.S.-China diplomatic relationship is expected to “begin to thaw very shortly.”
China cut several military-to-military communication channels and other areas of bilateral dialogue after an August 2022 visit to Taiwan by then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“With all the talk about China’s building this military … and that’s why I’ve made it clear that I’m not prepared to trade certain items with China,” Biden said. “And when I was asked by [Chinese leader Xi Jinping] ‘why,’ I said, ‘Because you’re using it to build nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and I’m not going to do it.’ And we’ve now got commitment from all of our allies, they’re not going to either provide that kind of material that allows them to do that.”
Biden said that it’s “not a hostile act,” adding, “That’s an act that says we’re going to make sure that we do everything we can to maintain the status quo ante.”
In August 2022, U.S. Indo-Pacific commander Adm. John Aquilino warned that China’s growing nuclear arsenal poses a threat to the region’s stability, with Beijing pursuing “the largest military buildup in history” since World War II.
According to a fact sheet (pdf) released by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2021, the accelerating pace of China’s nuclear buildup could enable it to have up to 700 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2027.
“We have and international organizations have agreed upon what constitutes open airspace and sea space,” said Biden on Sunday. “And we’re not going to allow that to be unilaterally altered, period. We’re not changing any rules. We’re just making sure that we unite democracies in the conviction that the Pacific basin remains what it was before, open and clear.”
In September 2022, the Biden administration released a strategic framework for ties with Pacific Island nations, titled the Pacific Partnership Strategy (pdf), in which it said the United States will focus on developing allies and partnerships to ensure the region remains “free, open, interconnected, secure, resilient, and prosperous.”
“U.S. prosperity and security depend on the Pacific region remaining free and open,” it states.
“Pressure and economic coercion by the People’s Republic of China, … risks undermining the peace, prosperity, and security of the region, and by extension, of the United States,” the document notes.
Separately, Biden was asked on Sunday whether he would ease off sanctions to improve the U.S.-China relationship, such as the sanctions imposed on China’s defense minister Li Shangfu.
“I know that’s under negotiation right now,” he said.