TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan’s defense minister said Thursday that Taiwan must be prepared to defend itself and could not entirely depend on other countries to help if China were to launch an attack against the island, even as Taiwan’s president said she had faith the U.S. would defend it.
“The country must rely on itself, and if any friends or other groups can help us, then it’s like I said before, we’re happy to have it, but we cannot completely depend on it,” the minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, told reporters after being questioned in the legislature as part of a session on national defense.
Tensions between Taiwan and China have risen to their highest level in decades, with China sending record-breaking numbers of fighter jets toward international airspace close to the island, stepping up a campaign of military harassment. Taiwan’s defense ministry has said that China would have “comprehensive” capabilities to invade the island by 2025.
China claims Taiwan as part of its national territory although the island has been self-ruled since it split from the communist-ruled mainland in 1949 after a long civil war.
Chiu has called the rising tensions between China and Taiwan the most “severe” he has seen in 40 years.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said in an interview with CNN that aired Thursday that she was confident the U.S. would defend Taiwan if China made a move against the island.
“I do have faith given the long term relationship we have with the U.S. and also the support of the people of the U.S. as well as Congress,” Tsai said.
Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden seemingly contradicted decades-long U.S. policy toward Taiwan when he said the U.S. was committed to protecting the island if China attacked it.
The U.S. has a policy of “strategic ambiguity” toward Taiwan, where it has been deliberately vague about whether it would defend the island in the face of an assault. However, the U.S. also has a policy to support the island’s self defense, including by providing it arms, as declared in the Taiwan Relations Act.
The White House later said Biden’s comments did not represent a change in policy toward the island.