US President Joe Biden says he has spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping about Taiwan, with them agreeing to abide by the “Taiwan agreement”, as tensions ratchet up between Taipei and Beijing.
“I’ve spoken with Xi about Taiwan. We agree … we’ll abide by the Taiwan agreement,” Mr Biden said.
“We made it clear that I don’t think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement.”
Mr Biden appeared to be referring to Washington’s long-standing “one-China policy” under which it officially recognises Beijing rather than Taipei, and the Taiwan Relations Act, which makes clear that the US decision to establish diplomatic ties with Beijing instead of Taiwan rests upon the expectation that the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means.
The comments to reporters at the White House — made after Mr Biden’s return from a trip to Michigan touting a spending package — come amid escalations in the Taiwan-China relationship.
Tensions ‘most serious’ in more than 40 years
China claims Taiwan as its own territory, which should be taken by force if necessary.
Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, says it is an independent country and will defend its freedoms and democracy, blaming China for the tensions.
The island nation split from the mainland in 1949 after the Communist Party of China won the Chinese Civil War, leaving Taiwan the last refuge of the pre-communist government.
Taiwan has reported 148 Chinese air force planes in the southern and south-western part of its air-defence zone over a four-day period beginning on Friday, the same day China marked a key patriotic holiday, National Day.
One more Chinese air force aircraft was reported on Tuesday.
Asked in Parliament about the current tensions, Taiwan Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said the situation was “the most serious” in the more than 40 years since he joined the military, adding there was a risk of a “misfire” across the sensitive Taiwan Strait.
“For me as a military man, the urgency is right in front of me,” he told a parliamentary committee reviewing a special military spending of $TW240 billion ($11.82 billion) for homemade weapons including missiles and warships.
Mr Chiu said China already had the ability to invade Taiwan and it would be capable of mounting a “full-scale” invasion by 2025.
“By 2025, China will bring the cost and attrition to its lowest. It has the capacity now, but it will not start a war easily, having to take many other things into consideration,” he said.
The United States, Taiwan’s main military supplier, recently confirmed its “rock-solid” commitment to Taiwan and also criticised China.
Beijing blames Washington’s policies of supporting Taiwan with arms sales and sending warships through the Taiwan Strait for raising tensions.
Taiwan’s special military spending over the next five years will go mostly toward naval weapons including anti-ship weapons such as land-based missile systems.
The United States urged China on Sunday to stop its military activities near Taiwan.
“The United States is very concerned by the People’s Republic of China’s provocative military activity near Taiwan, which is destabilising, risks miscalculations, and undermines regional peace and stability,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement on Sunday.
Mr Biden’s comments on Tuesday also appeared to reference a 90-minute call he held with Mr Xi on September 9, their first talks in seven months, in which they discussed the need to ensure that competition between the world’s two largest economies did not veer into conflict.