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China Welcomes Biden's UN Speech After Pledge to Defend Taiwan

Beijing welcomed familiar assurances from Joe Biden in his United Nations address on Wednesday, less than a week after the president said American forces would defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack.

"Let me be direct about the competition between the United States and China," Biden told the 77th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. "We do not seek a Cold War. We do not ask any nation to choose between the United States or any other partner.

"We seek to uphold peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," he said. "We remain committed to our 'one China' policy, which has helped prevent conflict for four decades. And we continue to oppose unilateral changes in the status quo by either side."

China Welcomes Biden's Assurances In U.N. Speech
President Joe Biden speaks during the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters on September 21, 2022, in New York City. The American leader said the U.S. sought "to uphold peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait." Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Chinese officials say President Xi Jinping has placed great value on the "five commitments" Biden made during their summit in November 2021.

Among them were commitments not to seek a new Cold War with Beijing, nor change the Chinese political system, nor target China with revitalized U.S. alliances, nor support Taiwan independence, and not to seek conflict with the Chinese.

Biden and senior U.S. officials have repeated the formula in recent months, including during the two presidents' subsequent calls in March and July this year. China calls the commitments Biden's "four noes and one no intention," but it began translating them as the "five noes" in August.

"President Biden has made the 'five noes' commitment on many occasions. We hope the U.S. side will act on the statements made by the U.S. leader," Zhao Lijian, China's foreign ministry spokesperson, said at a regular press briefing in Beijing on Thursday.

"China's policy toward the U.S. has shown continuity and stability. President Xi Jinping proposed that China and the U.S. follow the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation.

"They not only embody the experience that China-U.S. relations have gained over the past 50 years, but also constitute the basic principle that both sides should follow in order to keep bilateral ties on the right course," Zhao said, in a conciliatory response to Biden's assurances.

Biden didn't mention China at the U.N. in 2021, but he referenced strained relations with Beijing by insisting the U.S. wasn't seeking "a new Cold War."

Wednesday was the first time a U.S. president had mentioned Taiwan in remarks at the world governing body in recent memory.

Washington's lobbying failed to stop Beijing from taking Taipei's seat at the U.N. in 1971. Taiwan, which China claims as its own, has failed in all subsequent attempts to seek meaningful participation.

In his address, Biden called out China's "unprecedented, concerning nuclear buildup without any transparency." With Washington and Beijing still at odds over the U.S.'s naval presence in the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea and elsewhere, Biden also stressed the importance of freedom of navigation.

Beijing didn't respond to either, but urged the U.S. to "properly handle the Taiwan issue."

Taiwan's foreign ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou told the island's semi-official Central News Agency that Biden's public commitment in front of the U.N. to uphold peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait was "deeply meaningful."

It came less than a week after Biden's 60 Minutes interview on Sunday, in which he gave the clearest indication yet that he was prepared to use U.S. forces to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.

Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, said Biden wasn't announcing a change in policy. For more than 40 years, the U.S. has maintained "strategic ambiguity" that doesn't commit, but also doesn't rule out, American intervention in the Taiwan Strait.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to reiterate Biden's assurances to Beijing when he meets China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, on the sides of the U.N. General Assembly on Friday.