Biden seeks to clarify remarks on Taiwan, 'one China' policy

President BidenJoe BidenDearborn office of Rep. Debbie Dingell vandalized Pfizer to apply for COVID-19 booster approval for 16- and 17-year-olds: report Coronavirus variant raises fresh concerns for economy MORE said Tuesday that the U.S. was not endorsing Taiwan’s independence, after he suggested as much earlier in the day during an exchange with reporters about his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“We’re not going to change our policy at all,” Biden told reporters in New Hampshire, where he was traveling to promote the newly signed infrastructure bill.

“I said that they have to decide — 'they' — Taiwan. Not us. And we are not encouraging independence, we’re encouraging that they do exactly what the Taiwan Act requires,” Biden continued, an apparent reference to the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. “That’s what we’re doing. Let them make up their mind.”

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Biden told reporters earlier in the day that he made clear in the call with Xi that the U.S. abides by the Taiwan Relations Act, under which the U.S. commits to providing Taiwan with arms for its defense.

“It’s independent. It makes its own decisions,” Biden added.

A readout of Biden’s virtual meeting with Xi late Monday said that Biden reiterated his administration’s commitment to the “one China” policy under which the U.S. does not recognize Taiwan as a separate state from mainland China, as has been the case across previous administrations.

Speaking to reporters following the meeting, a senior administration official reiterated that the U.S. does not support Taiwan’s independence.

Biden’s remarks on Taiwan have previously caused confusion. After the president said during a CNN town hall in October that the U.S. would come to Taiwan’s defense if attacked by China, the White House sought to clarify Biden’s remarks by saying they did not represent a shift in policy. The Taiwan Relations Act commits to arming Taiwan but does not commit U.S. troops to defending Taiwan.

Tensions over Chinese military activity near Taiwan have been a flashpoint in the U.S. relationship with China and featured extensively as a topic of conversation in the virtual meeting between Biden and Xi on Monday night.

China has flown a large number of military aircraft into Taiwan’s airspace in recent weeks, prompting stern warnings from U.S. officials and raising concerns about the potential for conflict.

Biden characterized the meeting with Xi in positive terms on Tuesday, saying the two leaders have “a lot to follow up on” and that the U.S. and China would set up working groups on a range of issues.