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Bush pledges whatever it takes to defend Taiwan


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush on Tuesday said that the United States would do "whatever it took to help Taiwan defend herself" in the event of attack by China.

The comments, what appear to be a significant change in policy regarding what the United States will say in public about defending Taiwan, were made during an interview taped for broadcast later this morning on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Bush also is scheduled to be interviewed at 11:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday by CNN's John King.

John King

CNN's John King says President Bush has denied Taiwan's request for four Arleigh Burke destroyers equipped with the Aegis radar system.

1.57mb/2:29 mins.
AIFF or WAV sound
  • China-U.S. relations
  • Taiwan

    Asked in the ABC interview if Washington had an obligation to defend the Taiwanese in the event of attack by China, which considers the island a renegade province, Bush said: "Yes, we do ... and the Chinese must understand that. Yes, I would."

    When asked whether the United States would use "the full force of the American military," Bush responded, "Whatever it took to help Taiwan defend herself."

    China declined immediated comment about Bush's statements. "We have noted this point," a Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters.

    On Tuesday the United States approved a major arms sales package for Taiwan. China continues to detain a U.S. surveillance plane that performed an emergency landing on Hainan Island after a collision with a Chinese fighter jet on April 1.

    Bush's comments represent the strongest and most specific language a U.S. leader has used, and an apparent shift in U.S. policy, since it has been implicit, but never stated during previous administrations, that the United States would defend Taipei if it was attacked by Beijing.

    Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary, said Bush's comments are "identical" to what he said during the presidential campaign, noting his comments during a debate on March 2, 2000.

    "If China decides to use force, the United States must help Taiwan defend itself," then Gov. Bush said. "The Chinese can figure out what that means, but that's going to mean a resolute stand on my part."

    Fleischer said Bush restated in the ABC interview that under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the United States would help Taiwan defend itself.

    When asked whether the president is saying the full force of the U.S. military would be used to protect Taiwan, Fleischer said, "Obviously, he's not ruling it out... he's saying whatever it took."

    A senior administration official said the president was "deliberately leaving" what the United States would do "somewhat vague," but the official did not dispute the assessment that Bush was using stronger language than any previous U.S. leader when it comes to defending Taiwan.

    In a separate interview, Bush said he would end a near 20-year U.S. policy of annually reviewing arms sales to Taiwan.

    "We have made it clear to the Taiwanese that we will not have this co-called annual review -- that we will meet on an as needed basis," Bush told the Washington Post.

    Bush's remarks coincided with rising tensions between Washington and Beijing.

    For three decades the United States has followed what is called the "One China" policy, which means that it believes there is one China, recognizing China as a country and Taiwan as part of China. At the same time, the United States has also said it has commitments to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act, and it has been implicit but never stated the United States would help Taiwan defend itself.

    During the presidential campaign, Bush said it was time to remove the ambiguity about U.S. policy toward Taiwan. Many of his current advisers, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, are outspoken advocates of removing Washington's ambiguity when it comes to defending Taipei from Beijing.

    Reuters contributed to this report.

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