Bush Vows Taiwan Support

ByABC News
April 25, 2001, 8:16 AM

W A S H I N G T O N, April 25 -- In the strongest and most specific promise of military support for Taiwan from a U.S. president, President Bush said the United States would do "whatever it took" to defend the island if it were ever attacked by China.

In an interview aired on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America today, Bush was asked if the United States has an obligation to defend Taiwan. "Yes, we do, and the Chinese must understand that," he said in the interview, which was taped on Tuesday.

Asked if his commitment would be backed up with the full force of the U.S. military, Bush replied: "Whatever it took to help Taiwan defend herself."

Shortly after these comments though, administration officials were scrambling to clarify them. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker told reporters there was no change in change in U.S. policy toward Taiwan.

"We expect any dispute to be resolved peacefully. The president's said that. We expect, hope, believe that peaceful resolutions are possible. He said that the Chinese have to hear that we'll uphold the spirit of the Taiwan Relations Act," Reeker said.

In interviews with CNN and The Associated Press today, Bush also softened his stance, only saying military force is "certainly an option" if China were to invade Taiwan.

He also reiterated Washington's commitment to the one-China policy, and did not say the use of U.S. military force would be considered if Taiwan were to declare independence.

"A declaration of independence is not the one-China policy, and we will work with Taiwan to make sure that that doesn't happen," he told CNN. "We need a peaceful resolution of this issue."

The comments follow the administration's notice to the Taiwanese government that it could buy new military hardware but not the U.S. Navy's most advanced radar technology to fend off a potential threat from China.

The potential sale is being viewed as a strong commitment by Bush to Taiwan, which China has long viewed as a renegade province.