In a significant turn of events on Saturday, U.S. President Joe Biden addressed the recent Taiwanese elections, asserting that the United States does not endorse the independence of Taiwan. This statement comes after Taiwanese voters reaffirmed their allegiance to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), securing a third consecutive term for the party.
Earlier in the day, the newly elected DPP presidential candidate, Lai Ching-te, ascended to power, firmly rejecting Chinese pressure and vowing to stand up to Beijing while expressing a commitment to diplomatic dialogue.
President Biden, in response to the election outcome, emphasized, “We do not support independence…” underscoring the longstanding U.S. policy of not backing a formal declaration of independence by Taiwan. Despite the shift in diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, the United States maintains unofficial relations with Taiwan, acting as a crucial supporter and arms supplier to the self-governed island.
Biden’s remarks seem aimed at allaying concerns in Beijing, especially after previous comments hinting at U.S. defense of Taiwan in the event of an attack, deviating from the traditional “strategic ambiguity” stance. The President’s effort to reassure Beijing is evident, though Washington had issued a stern warning just hours before the polls opened, declaring it unacceptable for any country to interfere in Taiwan’s election.
Taiwan, contended by China as its own, has emerged as a democratic success story since its inaugural direct presidential election in 1996, marking the end of authoritarian rule and martial law.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated President Lai Ching-te on his victory, emphasizing the commitment to maintaining cross-strait peace and stability. Blinken’s statement reinforced the U.S. dedication to a peaceful resolution of differences and an unwavering adherence to the one-China policy, as well as the anticipation of fostering the longstanding unofficial relationship with Taiwan.
While the Biden administration has aimed to prevent escalating conflicts with Beijing, concerns persist over potential pressure from China on the incoming Taiwanese president. Taiwan’s government anticipates military maneuvers near the island this spring, raising tensions between the two nations.
In a demonstration of support, President Biden plans to dispatch an unofficial delegation to Taiwan, consisting of former high-ranking American officials. The delegation, yet to be finalized, echoes similar diplomatic efforts in the past.
As history recalls, China expressed displeasure in 2016 when then-President-elect Donald Trump conversed with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, marking the first direct communication between U.S. and Taiwan leaders since diplomatic recognition shifted to China in 1979.