The U.S. State Department quietly reinstated language opposing Taiwan’s independence in a policy document late last month after having removed it three weeks earlier.
In a U.S.-Taiwan relations fact sheet updated May 28, the department reinstated the line “we do not support Taiwan independence.” The line had appeared in a prior version of the document dated Aug. 31, 2018, but was removed in a May 5, 2022 update.
A State Department spokesperson told Reuters that the update was made to reflect the language used by Secretary of State Antony Blinken two days earlier in a speech outlining the U.S. strategy on China.
The fact sheet indeed contains the exact language Blinken used in his speech: “We oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side; we do not support Taiwan independence; and we expect cross-strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means.”
Blinken added in his May 26 speech that the U.S. approach to China “has been consistent across decades and administrations” and was unchanged from its commitment to the “One China” policy.
China was angered by the State Department’s removal of the line opposing Taiwan independence. In a May 10 press conference, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian accused the U.S. of “political manipulation” and attempting to “change the status quo” by deleting the line, which it described as “a trick to obscure and hollow out the one-China principle.”
Days before Blinken’s speech and the updated fact sheet, President Joe Biden had told reporters that the U.S. would be willing to defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion.
When asked on May 23 if the U.S. would be “willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that,” Biden replied, “Yes, that’s the commitment we made.”
Biden then added, “we agree with a ‘One China’ policy, we’ve signed onto it, and all the intended agreements are made from there. But the idea that [Taiwan] can be taken by force … it’s just not appropriate. It will dislocate the entire region, and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine. And so it’s a burden that is even stronger.”
Earlier in the same day, Biden had said the one-China policy does not give China “the jurisdiction to go in and use force to take over Taiwan.”
Shortly after Biden’s comments, the White House walked them back with a statement that said, “our policy has not changed.”
While the U.S. has no official ties with Taiwan, it has maintained strong relations with the independent nation and continues to supply Taiwan with weapons enabling its self-defense.