The United States continues to maintain "strategic ambiguity" over its response to a Chinese attack on Taiwan, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Friday, even though President Joe Biden has vowed military intervention.
Noting that every U.S. administration's Taiwan policy has contained "many different sentences" that have made people wonder how they would all fit together, Sullivan said, "Somehow that ambiguity -- that creative tension within the policy -- has allowed us to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait for multiple decades across multiple administrations."
"Our policy has not changed. And we maintain a policy of strategic ambiguity," he said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, organized by a Washington-based think tank.
Biden caused consternation with comments he made on Taiwan in May when he was asked if the United States is willing to get involved militarily if China were to advance on the territory.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, the U.S. president said, "Yes. That's the commitment we made."
While Biden himself has denied any change in U.S. policy toward Taiwan, his remarks raised questions about whether Washington was shifting to "strategic clarity" and were met with firm opposition from China, which views Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.
Taiwan and mainland China have been separately governed since they split due to a civil war in 1949. Beijing has since endeavored to bring the island back into its fold.
The United States changed its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979 but has maintained unofficial relations with Taiwan and supplies the island with arms and spare parts to maintain sufficient self-defense capabilities.
The strategic ambiguity policy is intended not only to deter China from using force against Taiwan but also to dissuade Taiwan from seeking independence, as neither Beijing nor Taipei can feel certain the United States would intervene to defend the island should a conflict arise, according to experts.
Some lawmakers in the United States have called for "strategic clarity" to deter Beijing, as the Asian country increases its military activity in the region and pressure on Taiwan.