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TOKYO — President Biden stressed Tuesday that his policy toward Taiwan had not changed, one day after forcefully pledging — as he has done before — that the United States would come to the island’s defense if it came under assault by neighboring China.

At a meeting here of leaders from the United States, India, Australia and Japan, Biden was asked to elaborate on his unequivocal remarks that were an apparent change to long-standing U.S. policy of deliberately staying unclear about its actions on such contingencies, a principle known as “strategic ambiguity.”

Asked Tuesday whether that policy was dead, Biden responded: “No.” He emphasized that position again when asked whether he would send U.S. troops to the self-governing island if China invaded.

“The policy has not changed at all,” Biden said. “I stated that when I made my statement yesterday.”

Biden takes aggressive posture toward China on Asia trip

Both the president and a White House official had said Monday that Biden’s remarks did not represent a shift in U.S. policy, despite provoking immediate uproar from Beijing. This precise scenario — in which Biden vows to defend Taiwan militarily, and his aides walking it back — has played out before, such as during a CNN forum in October.

His comments Tuesday came during a meeting of the Quad, a partnership of influential Indo-Pacific democracies widely seen as a counterweight to China. The four nations came together in 2004 for relief efforts following the devastating Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, and have met sporadically since although the Biden administration has elevated its importance.

After meeting jointly with the three other Quad leaders, Biden met Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, in a sit-down that bore some potential to be complicated, as India remains one of the most powerful outliers among the world’s largest democracies that has declined to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

India has repeatedly refused to criticize Russia at venues including the United Nations, to the deep frustration of the Biden administration and other Western governments. Biden pointed to that awkwardness in March, noting that India was “somewhat shaky” on Russia while others in the Quad had been “extremely strong” in denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression.

The Asian giant holds deep historical and strategic ties with Moscow, a friend reaching back to the Cold War. India’s military has purchased 85 percent of its existing weaponry from Russia, according to the Washington-based Stimson Center think tank. Some of India’s largest international investments involve Russian state-owned oil and gas firms and since the start of the war this year, India has increased its imports of Russian oil.

In response to Western criticism, Indian officials have argued that they need to prioritize the country’s energy security and have pointed to Germany’s continued dependence on Russian gas.

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On Tuesday shortly before he would meet with Modi behind closed doors, Biden said the two men would discuss the issue. The Indian prime minister, speaking through an interpreter, did not mention Russia in his remarks.

“We’ll also discuss the ongoing effects of Russia’s brutal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine and the effect it has on the entire global world order,” Biden said. “The U.S. and India are going to continue consulting closely on how to mitigate these negative effects.”

Earlier Tuesday, a senior administration official said Biden is aware India has “its own views” on Russia and “the idea is to build on the commonalities.”

Gerry Shih in New Delhi contributed to this report.



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