U.S. President Joe Biden is meeting Tuesday with leaders of an informal alliance known as the Quad. The regional grouping, consisting of the United States, Japan, India and Australia, is widely seen as an attempt to contain China.
The summit in Tokyo is the second personal meeting of leaders in less than a year.
They are expected to discuss a number of issues, including expanding economic cooperation in Asia, as well as the response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said international “food security” would be another topic for discussion, as India’s decision a week ago to block Indian wheat exports, in addition to Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian grain exports.
Biden is in Japan as part of his first trip to Asia as president since a trip to South Korea.
On Monday, Biden launched a new trade initiative in the Asia-Pacific region, which was signed by 13 countries, including India, Japan and South Korea.
The Biden administration says the launch of the Indo-Pacific economic structure is designed to demonstrate U.S. economic activity in Asia, including greater cooperation on issues such as supply chains, clean energy and workers ’protection.
Intervention in Taiwan
In other events Monday, Biden said the United States would be ready to intervene to defend Taiwan if China invades, Biden’s latest commentary questioning longtime U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity” on the issue.
At a news conference in Tokyo, Biden was asked whether the United States was ready to “take military action to defend Taiwan,” given that Washington was reluctant to do so after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Yes. This is a commitment we have made, ”Biden said, without elaborating on Taiwan’s hypothetical US defense.
This is Biden’s latest clear departure from the “strategic ambiguity” approach that U.S. presidents have long adopted when talking about a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
In response, China’s foreign ministry was quick to respond, saying Beijing had no room for compromise or concessions on issues related to its sovereignty.
Biden made similar remarks in October. In both cases, White House officials quickly sought to clarify his comments.
“As the president said, our policy has not changed. He has reiterated our” one China “policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” a White House spokesman said Monday.
The American official, however, did not refuse Biden’s comments that he defended Taiwan.
China, a one-party authoritarian state, views democratic Taiwan as a breakaway province and has long promised to return it by force if needed. In recent years, Beijing has also flown near the island with an increasing number of fighter jets.
In Tokyo, Biden said China was “flirting with danger,” but he did not expect China to use force to try to seize Taiwan, especially if the world withstood Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I expect a lot to depend on how strongly the world will make it clear that such actions will lead to long-term rejection,” Biden said.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who spoke with Biden, offered a less direct answer to whether Japan would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan.
However, Kishida said, “unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force, as in Ukraine, should never be tolerated in the Indo-Pacific region.”
Kishida said he and Biden stressed 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 intrusion in their public comments Monday.
“This is not a European issue. It has global implications. It has implications for the security issues of East Asia and the Indo-Pacific,” said Noriyuki Shikata, Secretary of State for Public Affairs in Japan, to the Voice of America.