Biden’s Taiwan comment looms over summit with leaders of Japan, India and Australia on final day of Asia trip

Biden’s statement is sure to hover over the day’s meetings as he prepares to meet the leaders of Japan, India and Australia in person in a revitalized summit of leaders of the Quad biking in Tokyo, wrapping up his four-day visit to the South. Korea and Japan. The comment, which was quickly pushed back by a White House aide, sent shockwaves through Washington and Beijing as Chinese government spokespersons issued stern warnings about Biden’s rhetoric, and the highs The president’s military officials were forced to spend most of Monday trying to explain the president’s apparent disregard for US strategy toward Taiwan.

A day later, Biden expected to have “very direct, very frank” conversations with the leaders of the Quad, a collective that drew ire from China as Biden tried to build an “Asian NATO”. Ahead of the talks, a senior US administration official stressed that the grouping is not a formal alliance bloc, with no central secretariat or headquarters.

“The goal here is not to create a lot of formal structures. The goal is to find ways to work together on issues of interest to the region,” the official said, adding that it was too early to discuss the issue. expansion of the group beyond the current four participants.

Still, Biden and the other leaders are expected to unveil new initiatives on maritime information sharing, Covid vaccines and climate as part of their meeting. And Biden aides see the Quad as an essential part of a foreign policy strategy that places a heavy emphasis on cultivating relationships in Asia.

“I think we’ve all been impressed with how comfortable the leaders are with each other and how comfortable they are having very, very serious conversations,” the official said.

Biden also planned to meet individually with the Indian and Australian prime ministers on Tuesday before returning to Washington. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese became Australia’s leader just 2 days ago, and US officials have been encouraged by his willingness to make the Quad Summit his top agenda.

Talks with India’s Narendra Modi are likely to be more tense as he resists US pressure to condemn Russia for its war in Ukraine. India depends on Moscow for the majority of its arms purchases, a historic partnership that it is reluctant to break.

“The president is very aware that countries have their own history. They have their own interests, they have their own perspectives, and the idea is to build on the commonalities,” the senior official said.

On his first trip to Asia since becoming president, Biden – who has long warned of China’s growing influence as a global power – sought to bolster the United States’ position with alliances eastern countries and to seek more ways of cooperating. And while much of China’s impending presence on the trip went unsaid, on Monday Biden said the United States would be prepared to intervene militarily if China attempted to take Taiwan by force – a statement that seemed to move away from the deliberate ambiguity traditionally fostered by Washington.

While acknowledging that the United States still stands with the “One China” policy, Biden said on Monday that the idea of ​​Taiwan being taken by force “is (just) not appropriate.”

Several of Biden’s top administration officials were taken aback by the remarks, several aides told CNN, adding that they did not expect Biden to be so unequivocal. The White House quickly played down Biden’s comments, saying they did not reflect a change in US policy. It’s the third time in recent months — including during a town hall on CNN in October — that Biden has said the United States will protect Taiwan from a Chinese attack, only for the White House to backtrack on those remarks.

Under the “One China” policy, the United States recognizes China’s position that Taiwan is part of China, but has never officially acknowledged Beijing’s claim to the 23 million self-governing island. ‘inhabitants. The United States provides defensive weapons to Taiwan but has remained intentionally ambiguous about whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack.

Tensions between Beijing and Taipei are at their highest level in decades, with the Chinese military sending a record number of warplanes near the island.

Biden’s comments quickly caught the attention of the Chinese government, with China expressing “strong displeasure and firm opposition” to Biden’s comments, saying it will not allow any outside forces to interfere in its “internal affairs.” “.

“On issues concerning China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and other core interests, there is no room for compromise,” said Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry.

“We urged the US side to earnestly follow the one-China principle… be careful in your words and deeds on the Taiwan issue, and send no bad signals to pro-Taiwan independence and separatist forces – so that it does not cause serious damage to the situation across the Taiwan Strait and to China-US relations.”

Chinese Taiwan Affairs Bureau spokesman Zhu Fenglian added, “We urge the United States to stop saying or doing anything in violation of the one-China principle and the three joint communiques. Chinese-Americans. …Those who play with fire will certainly get burned. “

The president spent his trip to Asia meeting with South Korean and Japanese leaders, discussing a possible escalation of joint military exercises with South Korea and unveiling the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework – an economic program long sought after by 13 countries.

The visit comes later in Biden’s presidency than he could have liked, according to officials, who say Covid restrictions and the pull of other crises have made it difficult to plan a trip. He is the third American president in a row to try to refocus his foreign policy on Asia, even if intermediate events have often got in the way.

Despite the focus on Ukraine, officials say Biden remains committed to realigning US foreign policy with the challenges of the coming decades. This includes, as a matter of urgency, building the kind of alliance structure in Asia that already exists between transatlantic allies and that formed an essentially united bulwark against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

Yet there is currently no Asian equivalent of NATO, which provided an essential structure for the Western response to Russian aggression. And China has worked hard in recent years to cultivate countries in the region as it loosens its regional power.

Biden has taken several steps to counter these moves — revitalizing the Quad; sharing, for the first time, sensitive US nuclear submarine technology with Australia; and last week hosting a summit of Southeast Asian leaders at the White House to discuss trade and security.

Yet it is far from clear that these measures have done much to contain China’s ambitions. And some analysts have drawn parallels between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and fears over Taiwan’s future.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Donald Judd and Nectar Gan contributed to this report.

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