State Department spokesperson Ned Price made the remarks from Washington on Wednesday, in the hours after Taiwan’s defense ministry reported incursions into its nearby airspace by 15 Chinese warplanes.
“Our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid. We think and we know that it contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region as well,” Price said. “We have, of course, taken note with great concern the pattern of ongoing [People’s Republic of China] efforts and attempts to intimidate in the region, including in the context of Taiwan.”
He continued: “In support of longstanding U.S. policy, again, as reflected in the Taiwan Relations Act [TRA], the United States maintains the capacity to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security or the social or economic system of the people on Taiwan.”
Price was quoting text from the TRA, which, together with the Six Assurances, has served as a guideline for informal relations between Washington and Taipei since official diplomatic ties ended in 1979.
The bill, under which the U.S. is to provide Taiwan with “arms of a defensive character,” also states “the expectation that the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means and that any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes is considered a threat to peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States.”
Price said America would continue to work with allies and partners in support of security in the Indo-Pacific, including in the Taiwan Strait.
Among the key U.S. allies in the region is Japan, whose leaders have also expressed concern about the rising tensions between China and Taiwan. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will reportedly make a rare formal announcement regarding cross-strait peace when he and President Joe Biden release a joint statement following next week’s in-person summit at the White House.
The State Department’s comments about Taiwan came on the same day U.S. Navy destroyer USS John S. McCain sailed through the sensitive waters of the Taiwan Strait, drawing opposition from Beijing, which views the democratically ruled island as part of China’s territory.
The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group added to high-profile military maneuvers in the area this week when it made a notable return to the South China Sea, before China’s Liaoning carrier task group conducted its own combat drills in the seas near Taiwan.
On Thursday, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told lawmakers in Taipei that support from the U.S. and others was “growing in strength” in the face of escalating intimidation by Beijing. Not for the first time, however, he stressed the importance of Taiwan’s own will to fight.
He told reporters before a committee hearing: “It’s the government’s responsibility to continue monitoring enemy threats, and I trust the Ministry of National Defense is doing a great job. What’s more important is that our citizens must have the determination to protect our own country.”
His remarks echoed comments made to international press the day before, when he said Taiwan would defend itself “to the very last day” if necessary.
China has declared the “unification” of Taiwan with the mainland one of the nation’s core goals. It decries any form of exchange with Taipei—informal or otherwise—and has refused to renounce the use of military force to capture the island.