Austin reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to a One China policy, adding that the US will help Taiwan to defend itself.
“We remain committed to the One China policy … As we’ve done under multiple administrations, we will continue to help Taiwan with resources and capabilities it needs to defend itself,” the Pentagon chief said at a NATO press conference.
When asked about Washington’s reaction to China’s possible attack on Taiwan, Austin noted that he “won’t engage in hypotheticals”.
Earlier on Friday, US President Joe Biden stressed that the country would come to Taiwan’s aid if it were to come under attack from China. Consequently, China’s Ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun urged the international community to call on the US to stop dragging Taiwan into a war.
According to the Taiwanese government’s spokesperson, Chang Tun-han, Taiwan took notice of Biden’s pledge of readiness to protect the island but will refrain from rash actions.
“Taiwan’s position has been and remains unchanged — not to succumb to pressure and, having received support, not to take reckless actions,” Chang Tun-han was quoted as saying by the local Central News Agency.
He added that Taiwan, which has been ruled independently from China since 1949, will continue to strive for ensuring its own defence, as well as cooperate with other countries for the security of the Indo-Pacific region.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that US Marines and special operations forces had been secretly training Taiwan’s soldiers to defend themselves against possible aggression from China.
Previously, the Taiwanese Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said that mainland China may be fully prepared to attack the island by 2025. His assumption followed the deployment by China of 150 military aircraft into Taiwan’s air defence zone since early October for drills.
Beijing described its military exercise near the Taiwan border as a preventive measure to ensure its sovereignty and territorial integrity and counter any separatist activities and foreign interference.
The ‘One China Policy’ is the diplomatic acknowledgement of China’s position that there is only one Chinese government. China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that one day will be reunified with the mainland. The US recognises this policy and has formal ties with China rather than Taiwan. However, the US also has unofficial relations with Taiwan and sells arms to the island.