Any move by China to invade Taiwan would have "terrible consequences," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday, adding that he hoped Chinese leaders would think very carefully about "not precipitating a crisis" across the Taiwan Strait.
Blinken, speaking at the Reuters Next conference, said China had been trying to change the status quo over self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory, and that the United States is "resolutely committed" to making sure the island has the means to defend itself.
"But here again, I hope that China's leaders think very carefully about this and about not precipitating a crisis that would have, I think, terrible consequences for lots of people, and one that's in no one's interest, starting with China," Blinken said.
Asked specifically if the United States could commit to send military forces in the event of an invasion, Blinken said: "We've been very clear and consistently clear, over many years that we are committed to making sure that Taiwan has the means to defend itself and ... we will continue to make good on that commitment."
U.S. President Joe Biden's administration has been trying to carve out more space for Taiwan in the international system amid what it says are Beijing's coercive military and diplomatic efforts to isolate the democratically governed island.
Biden caused a stir in October when he said the United States, which is obliged by a 1979 law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, would come to Taiwan's defense if China attacked.
His remarks appeared to depart from a long-held U.S. policy of "strategic ambiguity" toward Taiwan as to how Washington would respond to such a scenario. The White House said Biden was not signaling a change in U.S. policy toward Taiwan, and some analysts dismissed his comments as a gaffe.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has vowed to defend the island, and says only its people can decide its future.