WASHINGTON (Dispatches) – The United States will help Taiwan “develop the capability to defend itself” against China, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said, stopping short of President Joe Biden’s vow to send troops to the island.
“We’re committed to helping Taiwan develop the capability to defend itself,” Austin said in an interview with CNN.
Washington has historically maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would intervene militarily if Taiwan were attacked by China.
Asked in an interview with CBS last month whether U.S. troops would defend Taiwan, Biden said “yes,” if it were “an unprecedented attack.”
Austin was asked by CNN host Fareed Zakaria whether the U.S. military was preparing to send troops to Taiwan in line with Biden’s comments, but he declined to answer directly.
“The American military is always prepared to protect our interests and live up to our commitments. I think the president was clear in providing his answers as he responded to a hypothetical question,” Austin said.
“But, again, we continue to work to make sure that we have the right capabilities in the right places to ensure that we help our allies maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said.
During a visit to Japan in May, Biden was asked whether he would commit US.. troops to Taiwan and he said “yes.”
“That’s the commitment we made,” he added.
Under a law passed by Congress, the U.S. is required to sell Taiwan military supplies to ensure its “self-defense” against Beijing’s vastly larger armed forces.
Taiwan launched its first English-language news, lifestyle and entertainment television channel on Monday.
The government-backed TaiwanPlus began operations last year as a mostly online streaming platform and has been strongly supported by President Tsai Ing-wen.
Speaking at the launch ceremony, Tsai said the channel has already raised Taiwan’s international profile and would help as the island forges ever closer ties with “countries that share our core values of freedom and democracy.”
Culture Minister Lee Yung-te told reporters that Taiwan needed to be able to combat what China says about the island and put the Taiwanese viewpoint out.
The television channel is so far only available in Taiwan, but Lee said they were eyeing launching in the United States in the next six months.