US president Joe Biden has said the United States would send soldiers to defend Taiwan if it was invaded by China.
His remarks appeared to confirm a hardening of Washington’s support for the island and a shift away from its policy of not revealing whether it would intervene in a war.
Asked during a 60 Minutes interview broadcast on CBS on Sunday whether US forces would defend the democratic island of 23.5 million that China claims as its own, Mr Biden replied: “Yes, if in fact, there was an unprecedented attack.”
Asked to clarify if he meant that unlike in Ukraine, US military personnel would step in to defend Taiwan, he replied with a firm “yes”.
China’s foreign ministry said the comments “severely violate” US policy on Taiwan.
Beijing recently launched its biggest-ever military exercises around the island in response to a visit by the US speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.
The US has for decades maintained a policy of so-called “strategic ambiguity” over Taiwan, under which its leaders have left it unclear whether they would respond militarily to an invasion.
The Chinese Communist Party claims Taiwan as part of its own territory, though it has never ruled the democratic island, which functions as its own government and military.
Washington’s “One China” policy acknowledges Beijing’s position on Taiwan but stops short of officially recognising the claim.
US law, meanwhile, mandates Washington to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
Mr Biden has appeared to be pushing US policy in a more confrontational direction for several months. His remarks were the fourth indication he has given that the US military would step in to defend Taiwan.
Each time White House aides have sprung into action to soften or attempt to walk back the president’s statements, saying official policy has not changed.