U.S. President Joe Biden is meeting Tuesday with leaders from an informal alliance known as the Quad. Made up of the United States, Japan, India and Australia, the regional grouping is widely seen as an attempt to contain China.
The summit in Tokyo is the leaders’ second in-person meeting in less than a year.
They are expected to discuss a range of issues, including increasing economic cooperation in Asia as well as responding to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said international “food security” would be another topic up for discussion, with India’s decision a week ago to block exports of Indian-produced wheat on top of Russia’s blocking of Ukrainian exports of the grain.
Biden is in Japan as part of his first trip to Asia as president, after traveling to South Korea.
On Monday, Biden launched a new Asia-Pacific trade initiative, with 13 countries signing up, including India, Japan and South Korea.
The Biden administration says the launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework is meant to demonstrate U.S. economic engagement in Asia, including greater cooperation on issues such as the supply chain, clean energy and worker protections.
Intervention in Taiwan
In other developments Monday, Biden said the United States would be willing to intervene to defend Taiwan if China were to invade, the latest Biden comment casting doubt on the long-standing U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity” on the matter.
At a news conference in Tokyo, Biden was asked whether the United States was willing to “get involved militarily to defend Taiwan,” considering Washington was reluctant to do so following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Yes. That’s the commitment we made,” Biden said, without elaborating on what a hypothetical U.S. defense of Taiwan would entail.
It is Biden’s latest apparent move away from the approach of “strategic ambiguity” that U.S. presidents have long embraced when talking about a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
In response, China’s Foreign Ministry quickly hit back, saying Beijing has no room for compromise or concessions on matters related to its sovereignty.
Biden made similar remarks in October. In both instances, White House officials quickly attempted to clarify his comments.
“As the president said, our policy has not changed. He reiterated our ‘One China’ policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” a White House official said later Monday.
The U.S. official, though, did not walk back Biden’s comments about coming to the defense of Taiwan.
China, a single-party authoritarian state, views democratic Taiwan as a breakaway province and has long vowed to retake it, by force, if necessary. In recent years, Beijing has also flown an increasing number of warplanes near the island.
In Tokyo, Biden said that China is “flirting with danger,” but that he does not expect China will use force to attempt to take Taiwan, especially if the world stands up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“My expectation is that a lot of it depends on just how strongly the world makes clear that that kind of action is going to result in long-term disapprobation,” Biden said.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who was speaking alongside Biden, offered a less direct answer on whether Japan would intervene militarily to defend Taiwan.
However, Kishida said, “Unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force, like in Ukraine, should never be tolerated in the Indo-Pacific.”
Kishida said he and Biden had underscored the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
Japan has been one of the world’s most outspoken critics of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Biden and Kishida repeatedly condemned the invasion in their public comments Monday.
“This is not a European issue. This has global implications. This has implications for East Asia and Indo-Pacific security matters,” Noriyuki Shikata, Japan’s Cabinet secretary for public affairs, told VOA.