At a Tokyo press conference on Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden was asked again if he would use military force to defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack. But just one day after he answered "yes," Biden struck a very different tone. Instead of responding in the affirmative, he emphasized that there has been no change to the U.S.'' policy of strategic ambiguity. Political analysts say this long-standing policy means the U.S. will stay vague on whether or not it will send troops to defend Taiwan.

At a press conference after the Quad Leaders’ Summit, U.S. President Joe Biden emphatically denied any change to the U.S.’ policy of strategic ambiguity toward Taiwan.

Reporter (May 24)

Mr. President, do – would you send troops to Taiwan if China invaded?

Joe Biden (May 24)

US president

The policy has not changed at all. I stated that when I made my statement yesterday.

Biden insisted that there was no change in the U.S.’ Taiwan policy. When asked if he would send troops to defend Taiwan, Biden did not respond in the affirmative, even though he had just done so one day before to the same question. In Taiwan, scholars weighed in on Biden’s apparent about-face.

Su Tzu-yun

National Defense and Security Research

President Biden has already said three times that he would use force to defend Taiwan. The dichotomy between strategic ambiguity and strategic clarity is not quite able to define the current situation. We can’t only look at Biden himself. We also need to look at the important aides around him. These include his national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who said once in an interview with a foreign policy journal that the U.S. would prevent change to Taiwan’s status quo.


Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation

Biden was quick to express his commitment to Taiwan’s security. I think that’s heartening. It’s extremely positive and affirming. Then the Executive Branch issues statements to provide clarification, or to add to Biden’s comments. To some extent, this strategy is another form of strategic ambiguity. Of course he doesn’t want to stoke conflict or target anyone. Such an approach of unilaterally exerting pressure or fueling regional tensions is against his long-standing hope for multilateral cooperation and internationalism.

Scholars say that Biden is a specialist in foreign affairs. They say he’s long advocated for an approach of multilateralism, in which conflict is replaced with communication. But because the stability of the Taiwan Strait is an important U.S. interest, Washington will absolutely respond if China makes a move using force, scholars say.


Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation

If a military conflict occurs in Taiwan or the Taiwan Strait, the U.S. will certainly take immediate and practical actions. These actions may not only be for the security of Taiwan itself, but for maintaining stability, peace, and sustainability in the region. That is a vital interest of the U.S.

It’s sometimes clear and sometimes vague. Biden’s approach to Taiwan is keeping China guessing.