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China warns US against ‘playing with fire’ after Biden’s Taiwan remarks

US President Joe Biden attends the Quad leaders’ Summit in Tokyo, Japan, on May 24, 2022. (Via AFP)

China has warned the United States against "playing with fire" after President Joe Biden vowed to defend the self-ruled island of Taiwan militarily in the event of a Chinese attack.

The Chinese State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office on Monday accused the US of "using the 'Taiwan card' to contain China", warning that it will "itself get burned".

Zhu Fenglian, a spokeswoman for the office, called on Washington "to stop any remarks or actions" that violate previously established principles between the two nations, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.

The statement came as Biden answered with an unambiguous “yes” when asked by reporters whether the US would get involved militarily to defend Taiwan.

"That's the commitment we made," he said on Monday in Japan when he was pressed about the apparent shift in US policy.

“Look, here’s the situation: We agree with the ‘One China’ policy; we’ve signed on to it and all the attendant agreements made from there,” Biden asserted. “But the idea that it can be just taken by force is just not appropriate.”

In response to Biden’s threats, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Monday that Beijing was ready to defend its national interests over Taiwan.

“No one should underestimate the firm resolve, staunch will, and strong ability of the Chinese people in defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he noted.

While Biden is prone to occasional gaffes, it is the second time since taking power early last year that he has pledged the American military's potential intervention in the self-ruled island.

Pentagon officials, however, rushed to clarify that Biden’s remarks do not signal a change in the US’ "one-China policy" of the past decades.

“As the president said, our ‘One China’ policy has not changed. He reiterated that policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday.

"He also highlighted our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act, to help provide Taiwan the means to defend itself. So again, our policy has not changed," he added.

Biden on Tuesday reiterated that Washington's "strategic ambiguity" policy for Taiwan remains in place.

Answering a question by reporters whether the policy was now dead, Biden said "No".

"The policy has not changed at all. I stated that when I made my statement yesterday," Biden told reporters in Tokyo, where he is participating in the Quad group meeting on Tuesday, which also includes leaders from Australia, India, and Japan.

China considers Chinese Taipei as a breakaway province that should be reunited with the mainland under the internationally-recognized “One China” policy. The sovereignty is subject to international recognition, including by the United States.

But, in violation of its stated policy and in an attempt to irritate Beijing, Washington has recently ramped up diplomatic contacts with the self-proclaimed government in Chinese Taipei. 

Washington is also the island's largest weapons supplier.

Relations between China and the US have strained in recent years, with the world’s two largest economies clashing over a range of issues, Chinese Taipei included.

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